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TENDED TO 1920). 

I g ^ 12?- 







OF 1920 

THE thirty years that have elapsed since 1890, down to 
which date we brought the first edition of this book, have 
been momentous in the history of British Trade Unionism. 
The Trade Union Movement, which then included scarcely 
20 per cent of the adult male manual-working wage-earners, 
now includes over 60 per cent. Its legal and constitutional 
status, which was then indefinite and precarious, has now 
been explicitly defined and embodied in precise and abso- 
lutely expressed statutes. Its internal organisation has 
been, in many cases, officially adopted as part of the 
machinery of public administration. Most important of 
all, it has equipped itself with an entirely new political 
organisation, extending throughout the whole of Great 
Britain, inspired by large ideas embodied in a comprehensive 
programme of Social Reconstruction, which has already 
achieved the position of " His Majesty's Opposition," and 
now makes a bid for that of " His Majesty's Government." 
So great an advance within a single generation makes the 
historical account of Trade Union development down to 
1920 equivalent to a new book. 

We have taken the opportunity to revise, and at some 
points to amplify, our description of the origin and early 
struggles of Trade Unionism in this country. We have 
naturally examined the new material that has been made 
accessible during the past quarter of a century, in order to 

vi Introduction 

incorporate in our work whatever has thus been added to 
public knowledge. But we have not found it necessary 
to make any but trifling changes in our original interpre- 
tation of the historical development. The Home Office 
papers are now available in the Public Record Office for 
the troubled period at the beginning of the nineteenth 
century ; and these, together with the researches of Pro- 
fessor George Unwin, Mr. and Mrs. Hammond, Professor 
Graham Wallas, Mr. Mark Hovell, and Mr. M. Beer, have 
enabled us both to verify and to amplify our statements at 
certain points. For the recent history of Trade Unionism 
we have found most useful the collections and knowledge 
of the Labour Research Department, established in 1913 ; 
and we gratefully acknowledge the assistance in facts, 
suggestions, and criticisms that we have had from Mr. 
G. D. H. Cole and Mr. R. Page Arnot. We owe thanks, 
also, to Miss Ivy Schmidt for unwearied assistance in 

^The reader must not expect to find, in this historical 
volume, either an analysis of Trade Union organisation, 
policy, and methods, or any judgement upon the validity of 
its assumptions, its economic achievements, or its limitations./ 
On these things we have written at great length, and very 
explicitly, in our Industrial Democracy, and in other books 
described in the pages at the end of this volume, to which 
we must refer those desirous of knowing whether the Trade 
Unionism of which we now write merely the story is a good 
or a bad element in industry and in the State. 


January 1920. 

OF 1894 

IT is not our intention to delay the reader here by a con- 
ventional preface. As every one knows, the preface is 
never written until the story is finished ; and this story 
will not be finished in our time, or for many generations 
after us. A word or two as to our method of work and 
its results is all that we need say before getting to our 
main business. 

Though we undertook the study of the Trade Union 
movement, not to prove any proposition of our own, but 
to discover what problems it had to present to us, our 
minds were not so blank on the subject that we had no 
preconception of the character of these problems. We 
thought they would almost certainly be economic, pointing 
a common economic moral ; and that expectation still 
seems to us so natural, that if it had been fulfilled we should 
have accepted its fulfilment without comment. But it 
was not so. Our researches were no sooner fairly in hand 
than we began to discover that the effects of Trade Unionism 
upon the conditions of labour, and upon industrial organ- 
isation and progress, are so governed by the infinite technical 
variety of our productive processes, that they vary from 
industry to industry and even from trade to trade ; and 
the economic moral varies with them. Where we expected 
to find an economic thread for a treatise, we found a spider's 
web ; and from that moment we recognised that what 

viii Preface 

we had first to write was not a treatise, but a history. 
And we saw that even a history would be impossible to 
follow unless we separated the general history of the whole 
movement from the particular histories of thousands of 
trade societies, some of which have maintained a continuous 
existence from the last century, whilst others have cropped 
up, run their brief course, and disappeared. Thus, when we 
had finished our labour of investigating the records of 
practically every important trade society from one end of 
the kingdom to the other, and accumulated piles of extracts, 
classified under endless trades and subdivisions of trades, 
we found that we must exclude from the first volume all 
but a small selection from those documents which appeared 
to us most significant with regard to the development of 
the general movement. Many famous strikes and lock-outs, 
many interesting trade disputes, many sensational prosecu- 
tions, and some furious outbursts of riot and crime, together 
with many drier matters relating to particular trades, have 
had either to be altogether omitted from our narrative, or 
else accorded a strictly subordinate reference in their rela- 
tion to the history of Trade Unionism as a whole. All 
analysis of the economic effects of Trade Union action we 
reserve for a subsequent volume on the Problems of Trade 
Unionism, for which we shall draw more fully from the 
annals of the separate unions. And in that volume the 
most exacting seeker for economic morals will be more 
than satisfied ; for there will be almost as many economic 
morals drawn as societies described. 

That history of the general movement, to which we 
have confined ourselves here, will be found to be part of 
the political history of England. In spite of all the pleas 
of modern historians for less history of the actions of govern- 
ments, and more descriptions of the manners and customs 
of the governed, it remains true that history, however it 
may relieve and enliven itself with descriptions of the 
manners and morals of the people, must, if it is to be history 
at all, follow the course of continuous organisations. The 

Preface ix 

history of a perfectly democratic State would be at once 
the history of a government and' of a people. The history 
of Trade Unionism is the history of a State within our 
State, and one so jealously democratic that to know it well 
is to know the English working man as no reader of middle- 
class histories can know him. From the early years of the 
eighteenth century down to the present day, Democracy, 
Freedom of Association, Laisser-faire, Regulation of the 
Hours and Wages of Labour, Co-operative Production, 
Free Trade, Protection, and many other distinct and often 
contradictory political ideals, have from time to time 
seized the imagination of the organised wage-earners and 
made their mark on the course of the Trade Union move- 
ment. And, since 1867 at least, wherever the ideals have 
left their mark on Trade Unionism, Trade Unionism has 
left its mark on politics. We shall be able to show that 
some of those overthrows of our party governments which 
have caused most surprise in the middle and upper classes, 
and for which the most far-fetched reasons have been given 
by them and their journalists and historians after the event, 
carry their explanation on the surface for any one who 
knows what the Trade Unionists of the period were thinking. 
Such demonstrations, however, will be purely incidental, 
as we have written throughout of Trade Unionism for its 
own sake, and not for that of the innumerable sidelights 
which it throws on party politics. 

In our concluding chapter, which we should perhaps 
offer as an appendix rather than as part of the regular 
plan of the volume, we have attempted to give a bird's-eye 
view of the Trade Union world of to-day, with its unequal 
distribution, its strong sectional organisation and defective 
political machinery, its new governing class of trade officials 
above all, its present state of transition in methods, 
aims, and policy, in the face of the multitude of unsettled 
constitutional, economic, and political problems with which 
it stands confronted. 

A few words upon the work of collecting materials for 

x Preface 

our work may prove useful to those who may hereafter 
come to reap in the same field. In the absence of any 
exhaustive treatment of any period of Trade Union history 
we have to rely mainly upon our own investigations. But 
every student of the subject must acknowledge the value 
of Dr. Brentano's fertile researches into English working- 
class history, and of Mr. George HowelTs thoroughly prac- 
tical exposition of the Trade Unionism of his own school 
and his own time. Perhaps the most important published 
material on the subject is the Report on Trade Societies and 
Strikes issued by the Social Science Association in 1860, a 
compact storehouse of carefully sifted facts which compares 
favourably with the enormous bulk of scrappy and unverified 
information collected by the five historic official inquiries into 
Trade Unionism between 1824 and 1894. We have, more- 
over, found a great many miscellaneous facts about Trade 
Unions in periodical literature and ephemeral pamphlets 
in the various public libraries all over the country. To 
facilitate the work of future students we append to this 
volume a complete list of such published materials as we 
have been able to discover. For the early history of com- 
binations we have had to rely upon the public records, old 
newspapers, and miscellaneous contemporary pamphlets. 
Thus, our first two chapters are principally based upon the 
journals of the House of Commons, the minutes of the 
Privy Council, the publications of the Record Office, and 
the innumerable broadsheet petitions to Parliament and 
old tracts relating to Trade which have been preserved in 
the British Museum, the Guildhall Library, and the in- 
valuable collection of economic literature made by Professor 
H. S. Foxwell, St. John's College, Cambridge. 1 Most im- 
portant of all, for the period prior to 1835, are the many 
volumes of manuscript commentaries, newspaper cuttings, 
rules, reports, pamphlets, etc., left by Francis Place, and 
now in the British Museum. This unique collection, formed 
by the busiest politician of his time, is indispensable, not 

1 Now in the Goldsmiths' Library at the University of London. 

Preface xi 

only to the student of working-class movements, but also 
to any historian of English political or social life during 
the first forty years of the century. 1 

But the greater part of our material, especially that 
relating to the present century, has come from the Trade 
Unionists themselves. The offices of the older unions 
contain interesting archives, sometimes reaching back to 
the eighteenth century minute-books in which generations 
of diligent, if unlettered, secretaries, the true historians of 
'a great movement, have struggled to record the doings of 
their committees, and files of Trade Union periodicals, 
ignored even by the British Museum, through which the 
plans and aspirations of ardent working-class politicians 
and administrators have been expounded month by month 
to the scattered branches of their organisations. We were 
assured at the outset of our investigation that no outsider 
would be allowed access to the inner history of some of the 
old-fashioned societies. But we have found this prevalent 
impression as to the jealous secrecy of the Trade Unions 
without justification. The secretaries of old branches or 
ancient local societies have rummaged for us their archaic 
chests with three locks, dating from the eighteenth century. 
The surviving leaders of a bygone Trade Unionism have 
ransacked their drawers to find for our use the rules and 
minutes of their long - forgotten societies. In many a 
working man's home in London and Liverpool, Newcastle 
and Dublin above all, in Glasgow and Manchester the 
descendants of the old skilled handicraftsmen have un- 
earthed " grandfather's indentures," or " father's old card," 
or a tattered set of rules, to help forward the investigation 
of a stranger whom they dimly recognised as striving to 
record the annals of their class. The whole of the docu- 

1 Place's Letter Books, together with an unpublished autobiography, 
preserved by his family, are now in the custody of Mr. Graham Wallas, 
who is preparing a critical biography of this great reformer, which will 
throw much new light on all the social and political events of English 
history between 1798 and 1840 [published, ist edition, r8q8; and edition, 

xii Preface 

ments in the offices of the great National and County 
Unions have been most generously placed at our disposal, 
from the printed reports and sets of rules to the private 
cash accounts and executive minute-books. In only one 
case has a General Secretary refused us access to the old 
books of his society, and then simply on the ground that 
he was himself proposing to write its history, and regarded 
us as rivals in the literary field. 

Nor has this generous confidence been confined to the 
musty records of the past. In the long sojourns at the' 
various industrial centres which this examination of local 
archives has necessitated, every facility has been afforded 
to us for studying the actual working of the Trade Union 
organisation of to-day. We have attended the sittings of 
the Trades Councils in most of the large towns ; we have 
sat through numerous branch and members' meetings all 
over the country ; and one of us has even enjoyed the 
exceptional privilege of being present at the private delibera- 
tions of the Executive Committees of various national 
societies, as well as at the special delegate meetings sum- 
moned by the great federal Unions of Cotton-spinners, 
Cotton-weavers, and Coalminers for the settlement of 
momentous issues of trade policy, and at the six weeks' 
sessions in 1892 in which sixty chosen delegates of the 
Amalgamated Society of Engineers overhauled the trade 
policy and internal administration of that world-wide 

We have naturally not confined ourselves to the work- 
men's side of the case. In almost every industrial centre 
we have sought out representative employers in the different 
industries. From them we have received many useful 
hints and criticisms. But, as might have been expected, 
the great captains of industry are, for the most part, ab- 
sorbed in the commercial side of their business, and are 
seldom accurately acquainted with the details of the past, 
or even of the present, organisation of their workmen. Of 
more assistance in our task have been the secretaries of the 

Preface xiii 

various employers' associations. Especially in the ship- 
building ports have these gentlemen placed at our disposal 
their experience in collective negotiation with the different 
sections of labour, and the private statistics compiled by 
their associations. But of all the employing class we have 
found the working managers and foremen, who have them- 
selves often been workmen, the best informed and most 
suggestive critics of Trade Union organisation and methods. 
We have often regretted that precisely this class is the 
most difficult of access to the investigator of industrial 
problems, and the least often called as witnesses before 
Royal Commissions. 

The difficulty of welding into narrative form the innumer- 
able details of the thousands of distinct organisations, 
and of constructing out of their separate chronicles anything 
like a history of the general movement, has, we need hardly 
say, been very great. We are painfully aware of the 
shortcomings of our work, both from a literary and from a 
historical point of view. We have been encouraged in our 
task by the conviction strengthened as our investigation 
proceeded that the Trade Union records contain material 
of the utmost value to the future historian of industrial 
and political organisation, and that these records are fast 
disappearing. Many of the older archives are in the pos- 
session of individual workmen, who are insensible of their 
historical value. Among the larger societies it is not 
uncommon to find only one complete set of rules, reports, 
circulars, etc., in existence. A fire, a removal to new 
premises, or the death of an old secretary frequently results 
in the disappearance of everything not actually in daily 
office use. The keen investigator or collector will appreciate 
the extremity of the vexation with which we have learnt 
on arriving at an ancient Trade Union centre that the 
" old rubbish " of the office had been " cleared out " six 
months before. The local public libraries, and even the 
British Museum, seldom contain any of the internal Trade 
Union records new or old. We have therefore not only 

xiv Preface 

collected every Trade Union document that we could 
acquire, but we have made lengthy extracts from, and 
abstracts of, the piles of minute-books, reports, rules, 
circulars, pamphlets, working-class newspapers, etc., which 
have been lent to us. 

This collection of material, and, indeed, the wide scope 
of the investigation itself, would have been impossible if 
we had not had the good fortune to secure the help of a 
colleague exceptionally well qualified for the work. In 
Mr. F. W. Galton we have found a devoted assistant, to 
whose unwearied labours we owe the, extensive range of 
our material and our statistics. Himself a skilled handi- 
craftsman, and for some time secretary to his Trade Union ; 
he has brought to the task not only keen intelligence and 
unremitting industry, but also a personal acquaintance 
with the details of Trade Union life and organisation 
which has rendered his co-operation of inestimable value. 
We have incorporated in our last chapter a graphic sketch 
from his pen of the inner life of a Trade Union. 

We have, moreover, received the most cordial assistance 
from all quarters. If we were to acknowledge by name all 
those to whom our thanks are due, we should set forth a 
list of nearly all the Trade Union officials in the kingdom. 
Individual acknowledgement is in their case the less neces- 
sary, in that many of them are our valued personal friends. 
Only second to this is our indebtedness to many of the 
great " captains of industry," notably to Mr. Hugh Bell, 
of Middlesboro', and Colonel Dyer, of Elswick, and the 
secretaries of employers' associations, whose time has been 
freely placed at our disposal. To Professor H. S. Foxwell, 
Mr. Frederic Harrison, Professor E. S. Beesly, Mr. Robert 
Applegarth, and Mr. John Burns, M.P., we are especially 
indebted for the loan of many scarce pamphlets and working- 
class journals, whilst Mr. John Burnett and Mr. Henry 
Crompton have been good enough to go through one or 
more of our chapters in proof, and to improve them by 
numerous suggestions. And there are two dear comrades 

Preface xv 

and friends to whose repeated revision of every line of our 
manuscript the volume owes whatever approach to literary 
merit it may possess. 

The bibliography has been prepared from our material 
by Mr. R. A. Peddie, to whom, as well as to Miss Apple- 
yard for the laborious task of verifying nearly all the quota- 
tions, our thanks are due. 




April i 94. 






A TRADE UNION, as we understand the term, is a continuous 
association of wage-earners for the purpose of maintaining 
or improving the conditions of their working lives. 1 This 
form of association has, as we shall see, existed in England 
for over two centuries, and cannot be supposed to have 
sprung at once fully developed into existence. But although 
we shall briefly discuss the institutions which have some- 
times been described as the forerunners of Trade Unionism, 
our narrative will commence only from the latter part of 
the seventeenth century, before which date we have been 
unable to discover the existence in the British Isles of 
anything falling within our definition. Moreover, although 
it is suggested that analogous associations may have existed 
during the Middle Ages in various parts of the Continent of 
Europe, we have no reason to suppose that such institutions 

1 In the first edition we said " of their employment." This has been 
objected to as implying that Trade Unions have always contemplated a 
perpetual continuance of the capitalist or wage-system. No such implica- 
tion was intended. Trade Unions have, at various dates during the past 
century at any rate, frequently had aspirations towards a revolutionary 
change in social and economic relations. 


2 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

exercised any influence whatever upon the rise and develop- 
ment of the Trade Union Movement in this country. We 
feel ourselves, therefore, warranted, as we are indeed com- 
pelled, to limit our history exclusively to the Trade Unions 
of the United Kingdom, 

We have, by our definition, expressly excluded from 
our history any account of the innumerable instances in 
which the manual workers have formed ephemeral combina- 
tions against their social superiors. Strikes are as old as 
history itself. The ingenious seeker of historical parallels 
might, for instance, find in the revolt, 1490 B.C., of the 
Hebrew brickmakers in Egypt against being required to 
make bricks without straw, a curious precedent for the strike 
of the Stalybridge cotton-spinners, A.D. 1892, against the 
supply of bad material for their work. But we cannot 
seriously regard, as in any way analogous to the Trade 
Union Movement of to-day, the innumerable rebellions of 
subject races, the slave insurrections, and the semi-servile 
peasant revolts of which the annals of history are full. These 
forms of the " labour war " fall outside our subject, not 
only because they in no case resulted in permanent asso- 
ciations, but because the " strikers " were not seeking to 
improve the conditions of a contract of service into which 
they voluntarily entered. 

When, however, we pass from the annals of slavery or 
serfdom to those of the nominally free citizenship of the 
mediaeval town, we are on more debatable ground. We 
make no pretence to a thorough knowledge of English 
town-life in the Middle Ages. But it is clear that there 
were at times, alongside of the independent master crafts- 
men, a number of hired journeymen and labourers, who are 
known to have occasionally combined against their rulers 
and governors. These combinations are stated sometimes 
to have lasted for months, and even for years. As early 
as 1383 we find the Corporation of the City of London 
prohibiting all " congregations, covins, and conspiracies of 
workmen." In 1387 the serving-men of the London cord- 

Journeymen Fraternities 3 

wainers, in rebellion against the " overseers of the trade," l 
are reported to be aiming at making a permanent fraternity. 
Nine years later the serving-men of the saddlers, " called 
yeomen/' assert that they have had a fraternity of their 
own, " time out of mind," with a livery and appointed 
governors. The masters declared, however, that the 
association was only thirteen years old, and that its object 
was to raise wages. 2 In 1417 the tailors' " serving men 
and journeymen " in London have to be forbidden to dwell 
apart from their masters as they hold assemblies and have 
formed a kind of association. 3 Nor were these fraternities 
confined to London. In 1538 the Bishop of Ely reports to 
Cromwell that twenty -one journeymen shoemakers of 
Wisbech have assembled on a hill without the town, and 
sent three of their number to summon all the master shoe- 
makers to meet them, in order to insist upon an advance in 
their wages, threatening that " there shall none come into 
the town to serve for that wages within a twelve month and 
a day, but we woll have an harme or "a legge of hym, except 
they woll take an othe as we have doon." 4 

These instances derived from the very fragmentary 
materials as yet printed, suggest that a more complete 
examination of the unpublished archives might possibly 
disclose a whole series of journeymen fraternities, and 
enable us to determine the exact constitution of these 
associations. It is, for instance, by no means clear whether 
the instances cited were strikes against employers, or revolts 
against the authority of the gild. Our impression is that 
the case of the Wisbech shoemakers, and possibly some of 

1 Riley's Memorials of London and London Life in the Thirteenth, 
Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Centuries (1888), p. 495 (partly cited in Trade 
Unions, by William Trant, 1884). 

2 Ibid. pp. 542-3- 

8 Ibid. p. 609 ; Clode's Early History of the Merchant Taylors' Com- 
pany, vol. i. p. 63. 

4 Calendars of State Papers : Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, 
Henry VIII. vol. xiii. part i., 1538, No. 1454, p. 537. Compare the 
ephemeral combinations cited by Fagniez, Etudes sur I'industrie et la classe 
industrielle d Paris (Paris, 1877), pp. 76, 82, etc. 

4 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

the others, represent the embryo stage of a Trade Union. 
Supposing, therefore, that further investigation were to 
prove that such ephemeral combinations by hired journey- 
men against their employers did actually pass into durable 
associations of like character, we should be constrained to 
begin our history with the fourteenth or fifteenth century. 
But, after detailed consideration of every published instance 
of a journeyman's fraternity in England, we are fully 
convinced that there is as yet no evidence of the existence 
of any such durable and independent combination of wage- 
earners against their employers during the Middle Ages. 

There are certain other cases in which associations during 
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, which are sometimes 
assumed to have been composed of journeymen, 1 maintained 

1 It has been assumed that, in the company of " Bachelors " or 
" Yeomen Tailors " connected with the Merchant Taylors' Company of 
London between 1446 and 1661, we have " for the first time revealed to 
us the existence, and something of the constitution, of a journeyman's 
society which -succeeded in maintaining itself for a prolonged period." 
More careful examination of the materials from which this vivid picture 
of this supposed journeyman's society has been drawn leads us to believe 
that it was not composed of journeymen at all, but of masters. This 
might, in the first place, have been inferred from the fact that in the 
ranks of the supposed journeymen were to be found opulent leaders like 
Richard Hilles, the friend of Cranmer and Bullinger, who " became a 
Bachelor in Budge of the Yeoman Company " in 1535 (Clode, Early 
History of the Merchant Taylors' Company, vol. ii. p. 64), and Sir Leonard 
Halliday, afterwards Lord Mayor, who was in the Bachelors' Company 
from 1572 to 1594, when " he was elected a member of the higher hierarchy 
of the Corporation " (ibid. p. 237). The Bachelors' Company, indeed, far 
from being composed of needy wage-earners, bore the greater part of the 
expense of the pageant in connection with the mayoralty, and managed 
the whole proceedings. The Bachelors " in Foynes " and those " in 
Budge " are all named as marching in the procession in " gownes to be 
welted with velvet, and there jackyttes, cassockes, and doublettes to be 
either of satten damaske, taffataye " (ibid. pp. 262-6). And when, in 
1609, the Company was assessed to cc/ntribute to the Plantation of Ulster, 
the Bachelors contributed nearly as much as the merchants (^155, 103. 
from ten members as compared with 187, ics. from nine members 
(ibid. vol. i. pp. 327-9)). Whether the Bachelors' Company ever included 
any large proportion of hired journeymen appears extremely doubtful, 
though its object was clearly the regulation of the trade. The members, 
according to the Ordinance of 1613, paid a contribution of 2s. 2d. a 
quarter " for the poor of the fraternity." This may be contrasted with 
the quarterage of 8d. a year or 2d. per quarter, levied, according to order 
of August 1578, on every servant or journeyman free of the City. The 

Bachelors' Companies 5 

a continuous existence. But in all these cases, so far as we 
have been able to investigate them, the " Bachelors' Com- 
pany," presumed to be a journeymen's fraternity, formed a 
subordinate department of the masters' gild, by the rulers 
of which it was governed. It will be obvious that associa- 
tions in which the employers dispensed the funds and 
appointed the officers can bear no analogy to modern Trade 
Unions. Moreover, these " yeoman " organisations or 

funds of the two companies were kept distinct, but frequent donations 
were made from one to the other, and not only from the inferior to the 
superior (ibid. vol. i. pp. 67-9). That the Bachelors' Company was by 
no means confined to journeymen is clear. Sir Leonard Halliday, for 
instance, became a freeman in April 1564 on completing his apprentice- 
ship, and at once set up in business for himself, obtaining a charitable 
loan for the purpose. Yet, although he prospered in business, " in 1572 
we find him assessed as in the Bachelors' Company," and he was not 
elected to the superior company until 1594 (ibid. vol. ii. p. 237). And in 
the Ordinance of 1507, " for all those persons that shall be abled by the 
maister and Wardeins to holde hous or shop open," it is provided that 
the person desiring to set up shop shall not only pay a licence fee, but 
also " for his incomyng to the bachelors' Company and to be broder with 
theym iij 8 iii d " (Clode, Memorials of the Merchant Taylors' Company, 
p. 209). Nor do the instances of its action imply that it had at heart 
the interest of the wage-earners, as distinguished from that of the em- 
ployers. The hostility to foreigners, the desire to secure government 
clothing contracts, and the preference for a limitation of apprentices to 
two for each employer are all consistent with the theory that the Bachelors' 
Company was, like its superior, composed of masters, probably less opulent 
than the governing clique, and perhaps occupied in tailoring rather than 
in the business of a clothier or merchant. It is not until 1675 and 1682 
that can be traced in the MS. records of the Clothworkers' Company the 
existence of distinctively journeymen's combinations (Industrial Organisa- 
tion in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, by George Unwin, 1904, 
p. 199). The other instances of identification of " Bachelors' Companies " 
or " Yeomen " organisation with journeymen's societies are no more 
convincing than that of the Merchant Taylors. That the " valets," 
serving-men, or journeymen in many trades possessed some kind of 
" almsbox," or charitable funds of their own is indeed clear, but that 
this was ever used in trade disputes, or was independent of the masters' 
control, must at present be regarded as highly improbable. The strongest 
instance of independence is that of the Oxford cordwainers (Selections 
from the Records of the City of Oxford, by William H. Turner, Oxford, 
1880). See, on the whole subject, the chapter on " Mediaeval Journeymen's 
Clubs," in Sir William Ashley's Surveys : Historic and Economic, 1900 ; 
Industrial Organisation in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, by 
Professor George Unwin, 1904 ; and an article on "The Origin of Trade 
Unionism," by Mr. W. A. S. He wins, in the Economic Review, April 1895 
(vol. v.). 

6 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

" Bachelors' Companies " do not appear to have long sur- 
vived the sixteenth century. 

The explanation of the tardy growth of stable independ- 
ent combination among hired journeymen is, we believe, to 
be found in the prospects of economic advancement Which 
the skilled handicraftsman still possessed. We do not wish 
to suggest the existence of any Golden Age in which each 
skilled workman was his own master, and the wage system 
was unknown. The earliest records of English town history 
imply the presence of hired journeymen, who were not 
always contented with their wages. But the apprenticed 
journeyman in the skilled handicrafts belonged, until com- 
paratively modern times, to the same social grade as his 
employer, and was indeed usually the son of a master in 
the same or an analogous trade. So long as industry was 
carried on mainly by small masters, each employing but one 
or two journeymen, the period of any energetic man's service 
as a hired wage-earner cannot normally have exceeded a 
few years, and the industrious apprentice might reasonably 
hope, if not always to marry his master's daughter, at any 
rate to set up in business for himself. Any incipient organ- 
isation would always be losing its oldest and most capable 
members, and would of necessity be confined, like the 
Coventry journeymen's Gild of St. George, to " the young 
people," 1 or like the ephemeral fraternity of journeymen 
tailors of 1415-17, to " a race at once youthful and un- 
stable," 2 from whose inexperienced ranks it would be hard 
to draw a supply of good Trade Union leaders. We are 
therefore able to understand how it is that, whilst industrial 
oppression belongs to all ages, it is not until the changing 
conditions of industry had reduced to an infinitesimal chance 
the journeyman's prospect of becoming himself a master, 
that we find the passage of ephemeral combinations into 
permanent trade societies. This inference is supported by 

1 Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire (1656), p. 125. 
* Riley's Memorials, p. 653 ; Clode, Early History of Merchant Taylors' 
Company, vol. i. p. 63. 

Piecers' Associations 7 

the experience of an analogous case in the Lancashire of 
to-day. The " piecers," who assist at the " mules," are 
employed and paid by the operative cotton-spinners under 
whom they work. The " big piecer " is often an adult man, 
quite as skilled as the spinner himself, from whom, how- 
ever, he receives very inferior wages. But although the 
cotton operatives display a remarkable aptitude for Trade 
Unionism, attempts to form an independent organisation 
among the piecers have invariably failed. The energetic 
and competent piecer is always looking forward to becoming 
a spinner, interested rather in reducing than in raising 
piecers' wages. The leaders of any incipient movement 
among the piecers have necessarily fallen away from it on 
becoming themselves employers of the class from which they 
have been promoted. But though the Lancashire piecers 
have always failed to form an independent Trade Union, 
they are not without their associations, in the constitution 
of which we may find some hint of the relation between the 
gild of the master craftsmen and the Bachelors' Company 
or other subordinate association in which journeymen may 
possibly have been included. The spinners have, for their 
own purposes, brigaded the piecers into piecers' associations. 
These associations, membership of which is usually compul- 
sory, form a subordinate part of the spinners' Trade Union, 
the officers of which fix and collect the contributions, draw 
up the rules, dispense the funds, and in every way manage 
the affairs, without in the slightest degree consulting the 
piecers themselves. It is not difficult to understand that the 
master craftsmen who formed the court of a mediaeval gild 
might, in a similar way, have found it convenient to brigade 
the journeymen or other inferior members of the trade into a 
subordinate fraternity, for which they fixed the quarterly dues, 
appointed the "wardens" or "wardens' substitutes," adminis- 
tered the funds, and in every way controlled the affairs, with- 
out admitting the journeymen to any voice in the proceedings. 1 

1 Compare Fagniez, Etudes sur I'industrie et la classe industrielle A 
Paris (Paris, 1877), p. 123. 

8 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

If further proof were needed that it was the prospect of 
economic advancement that hindered the formation of per- 
manent combinations among the hired journeymen of the 
Middle Ages, we might adduce the fact that certain classes 
of skilled manual workers, who had no chance of becoming 
employers, do appear to have succeeded in establishing 
long-lived combinations which had to be put down by law. 
The masons, for instance, had long had their " yearly con- 
gregations and confederacies made in their general chapiters 
assembled," which were expressly prohibited by Act of 
Parliament in 1425. 1 And the tilers of Worcester are 
ordered by the Corporation in 1467 to " sett no parliament 
amonge them." 2 It appears probable, indeed, that the 
masons, wandering over the country from one job to another, 
were united, not in any local gild, but in a trade fraternity 
of national extent. Such an association may, if further re- 
searches throw light upon its constitution and working, not 
improbably be found to possess some points of resemblance 
to the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons of the 
present day, which was established in 1832. But, unlike 
the operative in the modern building trades, the mason of 
the Middle Ages served, not a master entrepreneur, but the 
customer himself, who provided the materials, supervised 
the work, and engaged, at specified daily rates, both the 
skilled mechanics and their labourers or apprentices. 3 In 
contrast with the handicraftsmen of the towns, the masons, 
tilers, etc., remained, from the completion of their apprentice- 
ship to the end of their working lives, in one and the same 
economic position, a position which appears to have been 
intermediate between those of the master craftsman and 
the journeyman of the other trades. Like the jobbing 
carpenter of the country village of to-day, they were in- 
dependent producers, each controlling the processes of his 

1 3 Henry VI. c. i ; see also 34 Edward III. c. 9. 

" Ordinances of Worcester," Art. Ivii. in Toulmin Smith's English 
Gilds, p. 399. 

3 Compare the analogous instances given by Fagniez, Etudes sur 
I'induslrie et la classe industrielle A Paris, p. 203 (Paris, 1877). 

Mediceval Building Trades 9 

own craft, and dealing directly with the customer. But 
unlike the typical master craftsman of the handicraft trades 
they sold nothing but labour, and their own labour only, 
at regulated customary rates, and were unconcerned, there- 
fore, with the making of profit, whether upon the purchase 
and sale of materials or upon the hiring of subordinate 
workers. 1 The stability of their combinations was accord- 
ingly not prevented by those influences which, as we have 
suggested, proved fatal in England to the corresponding 
attempts of the hired journeymen of the handicrafts. 

But if the example of the building trades in the Middle 
Ages supports our inference as to the cause of the tardy 
growth of combination among the journeymen in other 
trades, the " yearly congregations and confederacies " of 
the masons might themselves demand our attention as 
instances of early Trade Unionism. Of the constitution, 
function, or ultimate development of these mediaeval asso- 
ciations in the building trades we know unfortunately next 
to nothing. 2 It is remarkable that there is, so far as we are 
aware, no trace of their existence in Great Britain later 
than the fifteenth century. During the eighteenth century 
there is, as we shall see, no lack of information as to com- 
binations of workmen in nearly every other skilled trade. 
The employers appear to have been perpetually running to 
Parliament to complain of the misdeeds of their workmen. 
But of combinations in the building trades we have found 
scarcely a trace until the very end of that century. If, 
therefore, adhering strictly to the letter of our definition, 
we accepted the masons' confederacy as a Trade Union, 
we should be compelled to regard the building trades as 
presenting the unique instance of. an industry which had 

1 Dr. Brentano has noticed (p. 81) that the great majority of the 
legal regulations of wages in the Middle Ages relate (if not to agriculture) 
to the building trades ; and it may be that these were, like modern cab- 
fare regulations, intended more for the protection of the customer than 
for that of the capitalist. 

See " Notes on the Organisation of the Mason's Craft in England," 
by Dr. William Cunningham (British Academy Proceedings). 

B 2 

io The Origins of Trade Unionism 

a period of Trade Unionism in the fifteenth century, then 
passed for several centuries into a condition in which Trade 
Unionism was impossible, and finally changed once more 
to a state in which Trade Unions flourished. Our own 
impression is however that the " congregations and con- 
federacies " of the masons are more justly to be considered 
the embryonic stage of a gild of master craftsmen than of 
a Trade Union. There appears to us to be a subtle dis- 
tinction between the economic position of workers who 
hire themselves out to the individual consumer direct, 
and those who, like the typical Trade Unionist of to-day, 
serve an employer who stands between them and the actual 
consumers, and who hires their labour in order to make 
out of it such a profit as will provide him with his interest 
on capital and " wages of management." We suggest 
that, with the growing elaboration of domestic architecture, 
the superior craftsmen tended more and more to become 
employers, and any organisations of such craftsmen to pass 
insensibly into the ordinary type of masters' gild. 1 Under 
such a system of industry the journeymen would possess 
the same prospects of economic advancement that hindered 
the growth of stable combinations in the ordinary handi- 
crafts, and in this fact may lie the explanation of the striking 
absence of evidence of any Trade Unionism in the building 
trades right down to the eighteenth century. 2 When, how- 

1 Such a master craftsmen's society we see in the Masons' " Lodge of 
Atchison's Haven," which, on December 27, 1735, passed the following 
resolution : " The Company of Atchison's Haven being mett together, 
have found Andrew Kinghorn guilty of a most atrocious crime against 
the whole Trade of Masonry, and he not submitting himself to the Com- 
pany for taking his work so cheap that no man could have his bread of 
it. Therefore in not submitting himself he has excluded himself from the 
said Company ; and therefore the Company doth hereby enact that no 
man, neither fellow craft nor enter'd prentice after this shall work as 
journeyman under the said Andrew Kinghorn, under the penalty of being 
cut off as well as he. Likewise if any man shall follow the example of the 
said Andrew Kinghorn in taking work at eight pounds Scots per rood 
the walls being twenty feet high, and rebates at eighteen pennies Scots 
per foot, that they shall be cut off in the same manner " (Sketch of the In- 
corporation of Masons, by James Cruikshank, Glasgow, 1879, pp. 131. 132). 

* Thorold Rogers points out that the Merton College bell-tower was 

Watermen's Societies n 

ever, the capitalist builder or contractor began to supersede 
the master mason, master plasterer, etc., and this class of 
small entrepreneurs had again to give place to a hierarchy 
of hired workers, Trade Unions, in the modern sense, began, 
as we shall see, to arise. " Just as we found the small 
master in the sixteenth century struggling to adapt and 
appropriate the traditions of the superseded handicraft 
organisation, so we shall find the journeyman at the close 
of the seventeenth century [in some trades and at the close 
of the eighteenth century in others] endeavouring to build 
up a new status out of the ruins of the small master." 1 

We have dwelt at some length upon these ephemeral 
associations of wage-earners and on the journeymen frater- 
nities of the Middle Ages, because it might plausibly be 
argued that they were in some sense the predecessors of 
the Trade Union. But strangely enough it is not in these 
institutions that the origin of Trade Unionism has usually 
been sought. For the predecessor of the modern Trade 

built in 1448-50 by direct employment at wages. The new quadrangle, 
early in the seventeenth century, was put out to contract with a master 
mason and a master carpenter respectively, but the college still supplied 
all the material (History of Agriculture and Prices, vol. i. pp. 258-60 ; 
iii. pp. 720-37 ; v. pp. 478, 503, 629). 

1 Industrial Organisation in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, by 
George Unwin, 1904, p. 201. In this connection may be mentioned the 
London watermen, who have always dealt directly with their customers, 
and who possess a tradition of having been continuously organised since 
1350. Power to regulate the trade of watermen was, in 1555, conferred 
by Act of Parliament upon the then incorporated Thames Watermen and 
Lightermen's Company, the administration of which appears to have 
been, from the first, entirely in the hands of the master lightermen. The 
watermen, who had no masters, were compelled to take out the freedom 
of this Company, and the existing Trade Union, the Amalgamated Society 
of Watermen and Lightermen, was established in 1872 for the express 
purpose of obtaining some representation of the working watermen and 
the journeymen lightermen on the Court of the Company. Previous 
associations of working watermen for trade purposes seem to have been, 
in existence in 1789 (a Rotherhithe Society of Watermen) and in 1799 
(Friendly Society of Watermen usually plying at the Hermitage Stairs, 
in the parish of St. John, Wapping) ; and Mayhew describes, in 1850, 
local " turn way societies," regulating the sharing of custom, and a Water- 
men's Protective Society, to resist non-freemen (London Labour and the 
London Poor, 1851). 

12 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

Union, men have turned, not to the mediaeval associations 
of the wage-earners, but to those of their employers that 
is to say, the Craft Gilds. 1 The outward resemblance of 
the Trade Union to the Craft Gild had long attracted the 
attention, both of the friends and the enemies of Trade 
Unionism ; but it was the publication in 1870 of Professor 
Brentano's brilliant study on the " Origin of Trades Unions " 
that gave form to the popular idea. 2 Without in the least 
implying that any connection could be traced between the 
mediaeval gild and the modern Trade Union, Dr. Brentano 
suggested that the one was in so far the successor of the 
other, that both institutions had arisen " under the breaking 
up of an old system, and among the men suffering from 
this disorganisation, in order that they might maintain 
independence and order." 8 And when George Ho well 

1 Schanz, however, in his Zur Geschichte der deutschen Gesellenver- 
bdnde (Leipzig, 1877), suggests that the associations of journeymen which 
flourished in Germany side by side with the Craft Gilds prior to the 
Thirty Years' War (1618) were, in fact, virtually Trade Unions. Compare 
Schmoller's Strassburger Tucker- und Weber zunft (Strassburg, 1879). Pro- 
fessor G. Des Marez, the learned archivist of Brussels, supplies evidence 
of the persistence of journeymen's organisations in Belgium, resembling 
those of Germany, down to the beginning of the sixteenth century ; and 
of the rise of new ones towards the end of the seventeenth century, without 
trace of continuity (in Le Compagnonnage des chapeliers bruxellois, Brussels, 
1909. See Professor Un win's article in English Historical Review (October 
1910) ; and compare Les Compagnonnages des arts et metiers d Dijon aux 
xvii 6 et xviii* siecles, by H. House, 1909, and Enquetes sur les associations 
professionnelles d'artisans et ouvriers en Belgique, by E. Vandervelde, 

2 Dr. Brentano's essay was originally prefixed to Toulmin Smith's 
English Gilds, published by the Early English Text Society in 1870. It 
was republished separately as The History and Development of Gilds and 
the Origin of Trades Unions (135 pp., 1870), and it is to this edition that 
we refer. Dr. Brentano's larger work, Die Arbeitergilden der Gegenwart 
(Leipzig, 2 vols., 1871-72), includes this essay, and also his article in the 
North British Review for October 1870 on " The Growth of a Trades 
Union." It is only fair to say that in this, the ablest study of English 
Trade Union history down to that time, Dr. Brentano lent no support to 
the popular idea of any actual descent of the Trade Unions from the gilds. 
The Cobden Club Essays (1872) contain a good article on Trade Unions, 
by Joseph Gostick, in which it is argued that these associations were, in 
England, unknown before the eighteenth century, and had no connection 
with the gilds. 

3 Page 102. 

No direct affiliation 13 

prefixed to his history of Trade Unionism a paraphrase 
of Dr. Brentano's account of the gilds, it became commonly 
accepted that the Trade Union had, in some undefined way, 
really originated from the Craft Gild. 1 We are therefore 
under the obligation of digressing to examine the relation 
between the mediaeval gild and the modern Trade Union. 
If it could be shown that the Trade Unions were, in any 
way, the descendants of the old gilds, it would clearly be 
the origin of thef latter that we should have to trace. 

The supposed descent in this country of the Trade 
Unions from the mediaeval Craft Gilds rests, as far as we 
have been able to discover, upon no evidence whatsoever. 
The historical proof is all the other way. In London, for 
instance, more than one Trade Union has preserved an 
unbroken existence from the eighteenth century. The 
Craft Gilds still exist in the City Companies, and at no 
point in their history do we find the slightest evidence of 
the branching off from them of independent journeymen's 
societies. By the eighteenth century the London journey- 
men had in nearly all cases lost whatever participation 
they may possibly once have possessed in the Companies, 

1 The first hundred pages of George Ho well's Conflicts of Capital and 
Labour (first edition, 1877 ; second edition, 1890) are a close paraphrase 
of Dr. Brentano's essay, practically the whole of which appears, often in 
the same words, as Howell's own. But already in 1871 Dr. Brentano, 
in his Arbeitergilden der Gegenwart (vol. i. ch. iii. p. 83), expressly connected 
the Trade Unions, like Schanz, not with the gilds, but with the Journey- 
men Fraternities, which he suggests may have " awaked under changed 
circumstances to new strength and life, and to a new policy." We gather 
that Sir William Ashley inclines to this view. " My own impression," 
he says, " is that we shall by and by find that, like the usages 
of the German journeymen in the eighteenth century that centred 
into Herbergen, the trade clubs of eighteenth century England were 
broken-down survivals from an earlier period, undergoing, with the advent 
of the married journeyman and other causes, the slow transformation 
from which they emerged in the nineteenth century as the nuclei of the 
modern Trade Union." Sir William Ashley does not assert that any con- 
tinuity of organisation can be proved. " What is suggested is only that 
the habit of acting together in certain ways, which we find to characterise 
the journeymen of the eighteenth century, had been formed in a much 
earlier period" (Surveys: Historic and Economic, by Sir William Ashley, 

14 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

which had for the most part already ceased to have any 
connection with the trades of which they bore the names. 1 
It is sometimes suggested that the London Companies have 
had an exceptional history, and that in towns in which 
the gilds underwent a more normal development they may 
have given rise to the modern trade society. So far as 
Great Britain is concerned we have satisfied ourselves that 
this suggestion rests on no better foundation than the other. 
Neither in Bristol nor in Preston, neither in Newcastle nor 
in Glasgow, have we been able to trace the slightest con- 
nection between the slowly dying gilds and the upstarting 
Trade Unions. At Sheffield J. M. Ludlow, basing himself 
on an account by Frank Hill, once expressly declared 2 
that direct affiliation could be proved. Diligent inquiry 
into the character and history of the still flourishing Cutlers' 
Company demonstrates that this exclusively masters' 
association at no time originated or engendered any of the 
numerous Trade Unions with which Sheffield abounds. 
There remains the case of Dublin, where some of the older 
unions themselves claim descent from the gilds. Here, 
too, careful search reveals, not only the absence of any 
affiliation or direct descent, but also the impossibility of 
any organic connection between the exclusively Protestant 
gilds which were not abolished until 1842, and the mainly 
Roman Catholic Trade Unions which attained their greatest 
influence many years before. 3 --We assert, indeed, with 
some confidence, that in no case did any Trade Union in 
the United Kingdom arise, either directly or indirectly, 
by descent, from a Craft Gild./ 

1 So long as the Companies continued to exercise any jurisdiction 
over their trades, we find them (as in the cases of the London Frame- 
work-knitters and the Dublin Silkweavers) supported by any workmen's 
combinations that existed. In exceptional instances, such as the London 
Brushmakers, Basketmakers, and Watermen, we find this alliance for the 
exclusion of " illegal men " continuing into the nineteenth century, and 
(as regards the Watermen) down to the present time. 

2 Macmillan's Magazine (February 1861), relying on the Social Science 
Report on Trade Societies and Strikes (1860), p. 521. 

3 See Appendix 'On the A ssumed Connection between the Trade Unions 
and the Gilds in Dublin. 

Craft Gilds 15 

It is often taken for granted that the Trade Union, 
whatever may have been its origin, represents the same 
elements, and plays the same part in the industrial system 
of the nineteenth century, as the Craft Gild did in that of 
the Middle Ages. A brief analysis of what is known of 
the gilds will be sufficient to show that these organisations 
were even in their purest days essentially different, both 
in structure and function, from the modern trade society. 

For the purpose of this comparison it will be unnecessary 
for us to discuss the rival theories of historians as to the 
nature and origin of the Craft Gilds. We may agree, 
on the one hand, with Dr. Brentano 1 in maintaining that 
the free craftsmen associated in order to stop the deteri- 
oration of their condition and encroachments on their 
earnings, and to protect themselves against " the abuse 
of power on the part of the lords of the town, who tried 
to reduce the free to the dependence of the unfree." On 
the other hand, we may believe with Dr. Cunningham 2 
that the Craft Gilds were " called into being, not out of 
antagonism to existing authorities, but as new institutions, 
to which special parts of their own duties were delegated 
by the burgh officers or the local Gild Merchant," as a 
kind of " police system," in fact, by which the community 
controlled the local industries in the interest of the con- 
sumer. Or again, we may accept the middle view advanced 
by Sir William Ashley, 3 that the gilds were self-governing 
bodies of craftsmen, initiating their own trade regulations, 
the magistrates or town council having a real, if some- 
what vague, authority to sanction or veto these ordinances 
for the good of the citizens. Each of these three views is 
supported by numerous instances, and to determine which 
theory represents the rule and which the exception would 
involve a statistical knowledge of Craft Gilds for which 

1 Gilds and Trade Unions (1870), p. 54. 

2 History of Industry and Commerce, vol. i. p. 310. Dr. Gross, in his 
Gild Merchant, apparently takes a similar view. 

3 See his Introduction to Economic History and Theory, vol. i. (1891); 
vol. ii. (1893) ; see also his Surveys: Historic and Economic (1900) 

16 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

the material has not yet been collected. It will be evident 
that, if Dr. Cunningham's theory of the Craft Gild is the 
correct one, there can be no essential resemblance between 
these semi-municipal bodies and the Trade Unions of to- 
day. Dr. Brentano, however, produces ample evidence 
that, in some cases at any rate, the gilds acted, not with 
any view to the protection of the consumer, but, like the 
Trade Unions, for the furtherance of the interests of their 
own members that is, of one class of producers. Accepting 
for the moment the view that the Craft Gild, like the Trade 
Union, or the Employers' Association, belonged to the 
genus of " associations of producers," let us examine briefly 
how far the gild was similar to modern combinations of 

Now, the central figure of the gild organisation, in all 
instances, and at all periods of its development, was the 
master craftsman, owning the instruments of production, 
and selling the product. Opinions may differ as to the 
position of the journeymen in the gild or to the extent of 
the prevalence of subordinate or semi-servile labour outside 
it. Different views may be entertained as to the -reality 
of that regard for the interests of the consumer which forms 
the ostensible object of many gild ordinances. But through- 
out the whole range of gild history the master craftsman, 
controlling the processes and selling the products of the 
labour of his little industrial group, was the practical ad- 
ministrator of, and the dominant influence in, the gild system. 1 
In short, the typical gild member was not wholly, or even 
chiefly, a manual worker. From the first he supplied not 
only whatever capital was. needed in his industry, but also 
that knowledge of the markets for both raw material and 

1 Dr. Brentano himself makes this clear. " We must not forget that 
these gilds were not unions of labourers in the present sense of the word, 
but of persons who, with the help of some stock, carried on their craft 
on their own account. The gild contests were, consequently, not contests 
for acquiring political equality for labour and property, but for the re- 
cognition of political equality of trade stock and real property in the 
towns " (Gilds and Trade Unions, p. 73). 

Employers' Associations 17 

product, and that direction and control which are the special 
functions of the entrepreneur. The economic functions 
and political authority of the gild rested, not upon its 
assumed inclusion of practically the whole body of manual 
workers, but upon the presence within it of the real directors 
of industry of the time. In the modern Trade Union, on 
the contrary, we find, not an association of entrepreneurs, 
themselves controlling the processes of their industry, and 
selling its products, but a combination of hired wage- workers, 
serving under the direction of industrial captains who are 
outside the organisation. The separation into distinct 
social classes of the capitalist and the brain worker on the 
one hand, and the manual workers on the other the sub- 
stitution, in fact, of a horizontal for a vertical cleavage of 
society vitiates any treatment of the Trade Union as the 
analogue of the Craft Gild. 

On the other hand, to regard the typical Craft Gild as 
the predecessor of the modern Employers' Association or 
capitalist syndicate would, in our opinion, be as great a 
mistake as to believe, with George Howell, that it was the 
" early prototype " of the Trade Union. Dr. Brent ano 
himself laid stress on the fact, afterwards brought into 
special prominence by Dr. Cunningham, that the Craft 
Gild was looked upon as the representative of the interests, 
not of any one class alone, but of the three distinct and 
somewhat antagonistic elements of modern society, the 
capitalist entrepreneur, the manual worker, and the con- 
sumer at large. We do not need to discuss the soundness 
of the mediaeval lack of faith in unfettered competition as 
a guarantee of the genuineness and good quality of wares. 
Nor are we concerned with their assumption of the identity 
of interest between all classes of the community. It seemed 
a matter of course to the statesman, no less than to the 
public, that the leading master craftsmen of the town 
should be entrusted with the power and the duty of seeing 
that neither themselves nor their competitors were per- 
mitted to lower the standard of production. " The 

i8 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

Fundamental Ground," says the petition of the Carpenters' 
Company in 1681, " of Incorporating Handicraft Trades 
and Manual Occupations into distinct Companies was to 
the end that all Persons using such Trades should be brought 
into one Uniform Government and Corrected and Regulated 
by Expert and Skilful Governors, under certain Rules and 
Ordinances appointed to that purpose." * The leading 
men of the gild became, in effect, officers of the munici- 
pality, charged with the protection of the public from 
adulteration and fraud. When, therefore, we remember 
that the Craft Gild was assumed to represent, not only 
all the grades of producers in a particular industry, but also 
the consumers of the product, and the community at large, 
the impossibility of finding, in modern society, any single 
inheritor of its multifarious functions will become apparent. 
The powers and duties of the mediaeval gild have, in fact, 
been broken up and dispersed. The friendly society and 

1 J U PP* S History of the Carpenters' Company, p. 313, second edition, 
1848. In certain cases we see the workmen seeking incorporation as a 
gild or company, in order that they might themselves lawfully regulate 
their trades. Thus, in 1670 the wage-earning woodsawyers of the City 
of London, who were employed by the members of the Carpenters', Joiners' 
and Shipwrights' Companies, formally applied to the Corporation to be 
made a Company. Their employers strongly objected, alleging that they 
had already by combination raised their wages during the past quarter 
of a century from 55. to nearly los. per load ; that they were only day 
labourers who worked on material provided by their employers, and 
consequently not entitled to rank as masters ; and that if their com- 
bination were recognised by incorporation they would be able to bring 
the whole building trade to a standstill, as experience had already de- 
monstrated even without incorporation. Moreover, their main object, it 
was alleged, was to exclude from employment " all that sort of labourers 
who daily resort to the City of London and parts adjacent, and by that 
means keep the wages and prices of these sorts of labourers at an equal 
and indifferent rate ; and then success would be an evil precedent, all 
other labourers, the masons, bricklayers, plasterers, etc., having the same 
reason to allege for incorporation" (Ibid. p. 307). The London coal- 
porters in 1699 unsuccessfully petitioned the House of Commons that a 
Bill might be passed to establish them as " a Fellowship in such govern- 
ment and rules as shall be thought meet " (House of Commons Journals, 
vol. xiii. p. 69). Professor Unwin suggests that it was "by its failure along 
these traditional lines " that " the wage-earning class was driven into 
secrei combinations, from the obscurity of which the Trade Union did 
not emerge till the igth century " (Industrial Organisation in the i6th 
and I'jth Centuries, 1904). 

Common Features 19 

the Trade Union, the capitalist syndicate and the employers' 
association, the factory inspector and the Poor Law relieving 
officer, the School Attendance officer, and the municipal 
officers who look after adulteration and inspect our weights 
and measures all these persons and institutions might, 
with equal justice, be put forward as the successors of the 
Craft Gild. 1 

Although there is an essential difference in the com- 
position of the two organisations, the popular theory of 
their resemblance is easily accounted for. First, there are 
the picturesque likenesses which Dr. Brentano discovered 
the regulations for admission, the box with its three 
locks, the common meal, the titles of the officers, and so 
forth. But these are to be found in all kinds of associa- 
tion in England. The Trade Union organisations share 
them with the local friendly societies, or sick clubs, which 
have existed all over England for the last two centuries. 
Whether these features were originally derived from the 
Craft Gilds or not, it is practically certain that the early 
Trade Unions took them, in the vast majority of cases, 
not from the traditions of any fifteenth-century organisa- 
tion, but from the existing little friendly societies around 
them. In some cases the parentage of these forms and 
ceremonies might be ascribed with as much justice to the 
mystic rites of the Freemasons as to the ordinances of the 
Craft Gilds. The fantastic ritual peculiar to the Trade 
Unionism of 1829-34, which we shall describe in a subse- 
quent chapter, was, as we shall see, taken from the cere- 
monies of the Friendly Society of Oddfellows. But we 
are informed that it bears traces of being an illiterate 
copy of a masonic ritual. In our own times the " Free 

1 " The Trade Union of to-day is often spoken of as the lineal De- 
scendant of the ancient Craft Gilds. There is, however, no direct or 
indirect connection between the ancient and modern forms of trade 
combination. Beyond the fact that they each had for their objects the 
establishment of certain trade regulations, and the provision of certain 
similar benefits, they had nothing in common." " Trade Unions as a 
Means of Improving the Conditions of Labour," by John Burnett ; pub- 
lished in The Claims of Labour (Edinburgh, 1886). 

2O The Origins of Trade Unionism 

Colliers of Scotland," an early attempt at a national miners' 
union, were organised into " Lodges " under a " Grand 
Master," with much of the terminology and some of the 
characteristic forms of Freemasonry. No one would, 
however, assert any essential resemblance between the 
village sick club and the trade society, still less between 
Freemasonry and Trade Unionism. The only common 
feature between all these is the spirit of association, clothing 
itself in more or less similar picturesque forms. 

But other resemblances between the gild and the union 
brought out by Dr. Brent ano are more to the point. The 
fundamental purpose of the Trade Union is the protection 
of the Standard of Life that is to say, the organised 
resistance to any innovation likely to tend to the degrada- 
tion of the wage-earners as a class. That some social 
organisation for the protection of the Standard of Life 
was necessary was a leading principle of the Craft Gild, 
as it was, in fact, of the whole mediaeval order. " Our 
forefathers," wrote the Emperor Sigismund in 1434, " have 
not been fools. The crafts have been devised for this 
purpose : that everybody by them should earn his daily 
bread, and nobody shall interfere with the craft of another. 
By this the world gets rid of its misery, and every one may 
find his livelihood." l But in this respect the Trade Union 
does not so much resemble the Craft Gild, as reassert what 
was once the accepted principle of mediaeval society, of 
which the gild policy was only one manifestation. We do 
not wish, in our historical survey of the Trade Union Move- 
ment, to enter into the far-reaching controversy as to the 
political validity either of the mediaeval theory of the com- 

" To attempt to find an immediate connection between the Gild and 
the 1 Trade Union is like attempting to derive the English House of Commons 
from the Saxon Witanagemot. In the one case as in the other the two 
institutions were separated by centuries of development, and the earlier 
one was dead before the later one was born " (Industrial Organisation 
in the i6th and I'jth Centuries, by Professor George Unwin, 1904, p. 8). 

1 Goldasti's Constitutiones Imperiales, torn. iv. p. 189, quoted by 
Dr. Brentano, p. 60. 

Beginnings of Trade Unionism 21 

pulsory maintenance of the Standard of Life, or of such 
analogous modern expedients as Collective Bargaining on 
the one hand, or Factory Legislation on the other. Nor 
do we wish to imply that the mediaeval theory was at any 
time so effectively and so sincerely carried out as really to 
secure to every manual worker a comfortable maintenance. 
We are concerned only with the historical fact that, as we 
shall see, the artisans of the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries sought to perpetuate those legal or customary 
regulations of their trade which, as they believed, protected 
their own interests. When these regulations fell into disuse 
the workers combined to secure their enforcement. When 
legal redress was denied, the operatives, in many instances, 
took the matter into their own hands, and endeavoured to 
maintain, by Trade Union regulations, what had once been 
prescribed by law. In this respect, and practically in this re- 
spect only, do we find any trace of the gild in the Trade Union. 
Let us now turn from the hypothetical origin of Trade 
Unionism to the recorded facts. We have failed to discover 
in the manuscript records of companies or municipal cor- 
porations, in the innumerable trade pamphlets and broad- 
sheets of the time, or in the Journals of the House of 
Commons, any evidence of the existence, prior to the latter 
half of the seventeenth century, 1 or indeed much before 

1 A pamphlet of 1669 contains what appears at first sight to be a 
mention of Trade Unionism. " The general conspiracy amongst artificers 
and labourers is so apparent that within these twenty-five years the wages 
of joiners, bricklayers, carpenters, etc., are increased, I mean within 40 
miles of London (against all reason and good government), from eighteen 
and twenty pence a day, to 2/6 and 3/-, and mere labourers from 10 
and 12 pence a day unto 16 and 20 pence, and this not since the dreadful 
fire of London only, but some time before. A journeyman shoemaker 
has now in London (and proportionately in the country) 14 pence for 
making that pair of shoes, which within these 12 years he made for 10 
pence. . . . Nor has the increase of wages amongst us been occasioned 
by quickness of trade and want of hands (as some do suppose) which are 
indeed justifiable reasons, but through an exacting humour and evil 
disposition in our people (like our Gravesend watermen, who by some 
temporary and mean pretences of the late Dutch war, have raised their 
ferry double to what it was, and finding the sweet thereof, keep it up 
still), that so they may live the better above their station, and work so 
much the fewer days by how much the more they exact in their wages " 

22 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

the very close of that century, of continuous associations 
of wage-earners for maintaining or improving the conditions 
of their working lives. And when we remember that during 
the latter decades of the seventeenth century the employers 
of labour, and especially the industrial " companies " or 
corporations, memorialised the House of Commons on every 
conceivable grievance which affected their particular trade, 
the absence of all complaints of workmen's combinations 
suggests to us that few, if any, such combinations existed. 1 
We do, however, discover in the latter half of the seventeenth 
century various traces of sporadic combinations and associa- 
tions, some of which appear to have maintained in obscurity 
a continuous existence. In the early years of the eighteenth 
century we find isolated complaints of combinations " lately 
entered into " by the skilled workers in certain trades. As 
the century progresses we watch the gradual multiplication 
of these complaints, met by counter-accusations presented 
by organised bodies of workmen. From the middle of the 
century the Journals of the House of Commons abound in 
petitions and counter-petitions revealing the existence of 
journeymen's associations in most of the skilled trades. 
And finally, we may infer the wide extension of the move- 
ment from the steady multiplication of the Acts against 
combinations in particular industries, and their culmination 
in the comprehensive statute of 1799 forbidding all com- 
binations whatsoever. 

If we examine the evidence of the rise of combinations 
in particular trades^ we see the Trade Union springing, 

(Usury At Six Per Cent. Examined, by Thomas Manley, London, 1669). 
But we cannot infer from this unique and ambiguous passage anything 
more than the possibility of ephemeral combinations. It is significant 
that Defoe, with all his detailed description of English industry in 1724, 
does not mention any combinations of workmen. 

1 In an able pamphlet dated 1681, entitled The Trade of England 
Revived, it is stated that " we cannot make our English cloth so cheap as 
they do in other countries, because of the strange idleness and stubborn- 
ness of our poor," who insist on excessive wages. But the author attri- 
butes this state of things, not to the existence of combinations, of which 
he seems never to have heard, but to the Poor Law and the prevalence 
of almsgiving. 

The House of Call 23 

not from any particular institution, but from every oppor- 
tunity for the meeting together of wage-earners of the 
same occupation. Adam Smith remarked that " people of 
the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment 
and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy 
against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices." 1 , 
And there is actual evidence of the rise of one of the oldest \ 
of the existing Trade Unions out of a gathering of the > 
journeymen " to take a social pint of porter together." 2 j 
More often it is a tumultuous strike, out of which grows 
a permanent organisation. Elsewhere, as we shall see, 
the workers meet to petition the House of Commons, and 
reassemble from time to time to carry on their agitation 
for the enactment of some new regulation, or the enforce- 
ment of an existing law. In other instances we shall find 
the journeymen' of a particular trade frequenting certain 
public-houses, at which they hear of situations vacant, and 
the " house of call " becomes thus the nucleus of an organisa - 
tion. Or we watch the journeymen in a particular trade 
declaring that " it has been an ancient custom in the kingdom 
of Great Britain for divers Artists to meet together and 

1 Wealth of Nations, bk. i. ch. x. p. 59 of McCulloch's edition, 1863. 
In an operative's description, dated 1809, of the gatherings of the Paisley 
weavers, we see the Trade Union in the making. ' ' The Paisley operatives 
are of a free, communicative disposition. They are fond to inform one 
another in anything respecting trade, and in order to receive information 
in a collective capacity they have, for a long course of years, associated in 
a friendly manner in societies denominated clubs. . . . When met the 
first hour is devoted to reading the daily newspapers out aloud. . . . At 
nine o'clock the chairman calls silence ; then the report of trade is heard. 
The chairman reports first what he knows or what he has heard of such 
a manufacturing house or houses, as wishing to engage operatives for 
such fabric or fabrics ; likewise the price, the number of the yarn, etc. 
Then each reports as he is seated ; so in the period of an hour not only 
the state of the trade is known, but any difference that has taken place 
between manufacturers and operatives " (An Answer to Mr. Carlile's 
Sketches of Paisley, by William Taylor, Paisley, 1809, pp. 15-17). 

2 See Dunning's account of the origin of the Consolidated Society of 
Bookbinders in 1779-80, in the Social Science Association's Report on 
Trade Societies, 1860, p. 93 ; also Workers on their Industries, edited by 
F. W. Galton, 1895 ; Women in the Printing Trades, edited by J. R. 
MacDonald, 1904, p. 30. 

24 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

unite themselves in societies to promote Amity and true 
Christian Charity," and establishing a sick and funeral 
club, which invariably proceeds to discuss the rates of 
wages offered by the employers, and insensibly passes into 
a Trade Union with friendly benefits. 1 And if the trade 
is one in which the journeymen frequently travel in search 
of work, we note the slow elaboration of systematic arrange- 
ments for the relief of these " tramps " by their fellow- 
workers in each town through which they pass, and the 

1 Articles of Agreement made and confirmed by a Society of Taylors, 
begun March 25, 1760 (London, 1812). In 1790 Francis Place joined the 
Breeches Makers' Benefit Society " for the support of the members when 
sick and their burial when dead " its real object being to support the 
members "in a strike for wages " (Life of Francis Place, by Professor 
Graham Wallas, new edition, 1918). Local friendly societies giving sick 
pay and providing for funeral expenses had sprung up all over England 
during the eighteenth century. Towards its close their number seems to 
have rapidly increased until, in some parts at any rate, every village 
ale-house became ,a centre for one or more of these humble and spontane- 
ous organisations. The rules of upwards of a hundred of these societies, 
dating between 1750 and 1820, and all centred round Newcastle-on-Tyne, 
are preserved in the British Museum. At Nottingham, in 1794, fifty-six 
of these clubs joined in the annual procession (Nottingham Journal, 
June 14, 1794). So long as they were composed indiscriminately of men 
of all trades, it is probable that no distinctively Trade Union action could 
arise from their meetings. But in some cases, for various reasons, such 
as high contributions, migratory habits, or the danger of the calling, the 
sick and burial club was confined to men of a particular trade. This 
kind of friendly society frequently became a Trade Union. Some societies 
of this type can trace their existence for nearly a century and a half. 
The Glasgow coopers, for instance, have had a local trade friendly society, 
confined to journeymen coopers, ever since 1752. The London Sailmakers 
Burial Society dates from 1740. The Newcastle shoemakers established 
a similar society as early as 1719 (Observations upon the Report from the 
Select Committee of the House of Commons on the laws respecting Friendly 
Societies, by the Rev. J. T. Becher, Prebendary of Southwell, 1826). On 
the occurrence of any dispute with the employers their funds, as this 
contemporary observer in another pamphlet deplores, " have also too 
frequently been converted into engines of abuse by paying weekly sums 
to artisans out of work, and have thereby encouraged combinations among 
workmen not less injurious to the misguided members than to the Public 
Weal" (Observations on the Rise and Progress of Friendly Societies, 1824, 
p. 55). Similar friendly societies among workmen of particular trades 
appear to have existed in the Netherlands in the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries, where they perhaps bridged the gap between the mediaeval 
fraternities and the modern Trade Unions (see review in the English His- 
torical Review, October 1918, of P. J. Blok's Geschiedenes einer Hollandischen 

Tramping Societies 25 

inevitable passage of this far-extending tramping society 
into a national Trade Union. 1 

All these, however, are but opportunities for the meeting 
of journeymen of the same trade. They do not explain 
the establishment of continuous organisations of the wage- 
earners in the seventeenth and eighteenth rather than in 
the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries. / The essential cause 
of the growth of durable associations of wage-earners must 
lie in something peculiar to the later centuries. This 
fundamental condition of Trade Unionism we discover in 
the economic resolution through which certain industries 
were passing. /In all cases in which Trade Unions arose, 


1 Schanz (Gesellenverbdnde, p. 25) follows Brentano (p. 94) in attribut- 
ing the formation of journeymen's fraternities in the Middle Ages mainly 
to a desire to provide for the wandering craftsmen. The connection 
between the " Herbergen " or " Schenken," designed to find lodging and 
employment, with the journeymen's associations was certainly close. 
(See Dr. Bruno Schoenlank's article in 1894, quoted in Sir William Ashley's 
Surveys: Historic and Economic, 1900.) It may be suggested that the 
contrast between the absence or scanty existence of such fraternities in 
England and their spread in Germany is, perhaps, to be ascribed in some 
measure to the fact that English journeymen seem never to have adopted 
the German custom of " Wanderjahre," or regular habit of spending, on 
completing their apprenticeship, a few years in travelling about the 
country to complete their training. When the local privileges of the old 
gilds had fallen somewhat into abeyance, the restrictions of the successive 
Settlement Acts must in England, to some extent, have checked the mobility 
of labour. But, from the beginning of the eighteenth century at any 
rate, we find it customary for journeymen of certain trades it is to be 
noticed that these are relatively new trades in England to " tramp " 
from town to town in search of work, and the description, subsequently 
quoted, of the organisations of the wool-combers and worsted weavers in 
1741, shows that the relief of these travelling journeymen was a prominent 
object of the early unions. The hatters in the middle of the eighteenth 
century had a regular arrangement for such relief. The compositors at 
the very beginning of the nineteenth century had already covered the 
country with a network of local clubs, the chief function of which appears 
to have been the facilitation of this wandering in search of work. And 
the calico-printers had a systematic way of issuing a ticket which entitled 
the tramp to collect from each journeyman, in any " print-field " that he 
visited, at first a voluntary contribution, and latterly a fixed relief of a 
halfpenny per head in England, and a penny per head in Scotland 
(Minutes of evidence taken before the Committee to whom the petition of the 
several journeymen Calico printers and others working in that trade, etc., 
was referred, July 4, 1804, and the Report from that Committee, July 17, 

26 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

the great bulk of the workers had ceased to be independent 
producers, themselves controlling the processes, and owning 
the materials and the product of their labour, and had 
passed into the condition of lifelong wage-earners, possessing 
neither the instruments of production nor the commodity 
in its finished state./^' From the moment that to establish 
a given business more capital is required than a journeyman 
can easily accumulate within a few years, gild mastership 
the mastership of the masterpiece becomes little more 
than a name. . . . Skill alone is valueless, and is soon 
compelled to hire itself out to capital. . . . Now begins the 
opposition of interest between employers and employed, 
now the latter begin to group themselves together ; now 
rises the trade society." x Or, to express this Industrial 
Revolution in more abstract terms, we may say, in the 
words of Dr. Ingram, that " the whole modern organisation 
of labour in its advanced forms rests on a fundamental fact 
which has spontaneously and increasingly developed itself 
namely, the definite separation between the functions of 
the capitalist and the workman, or, in other words, between 
the direction of industrial operations and their execution 
in detail." 2 

It is often assumed that the divorce of the manual 
worker from the ownership of the means of production 
resulted from the introduction of machinery, the use of 
power, and the factory system. Had this been the case we 
should not, upon our hypothesis, have expected to find 
Trade Unions at an earlier date than factories, or in in- 
dustries untransformed by machinery. The fact that the 
earliest durable combinations of wage-earners in England 
precede the factory system by a whole century, and occur 
in trades carried on exclusively by hand labour, reminds us 
that the creation of a class of lifelong wage-servants came 
about in more than one way. 

1 J. M. Ludlow, in article in Macmillan's Magazine, February 1861. 

2 Work and the Workman, by Dr. J. K. Ingram (Address to the Trades 
Union Congress at Dublin, 1880). 

The Printers Chapel 27 

We may note, to begin with, the very old institution of 
the printers' "chapel," with its "father" and "clerk," 
an informal association among the compositors of a par- 
ticular establishment for the discussion and regulation, not 
only of their own workshop conditions, but also of their 
relations with the employer, who must, in early days, have 
been a man of superior education, with an outlook much 
wider than that of his journeymen. 

The " chapel " may possibly be nearly as old as the 
introduction of printing into this country. 1 We have no 
evidence as to the date at which the " chapels " of different 
printing offices entered into communication with each other 
in London, so as to form a Trade Union. But already in 
1666 we have The Case and Proposals of the Free Journeymen 
Printers in and about London, in which they complain of the 
multiplication of apprentices and the prevalence of " turn- 
overs " grievances which vexed every compositors' Trade 
Union throughout the nineteenth century. 2 Whether the 
" Free Journeymen Printers " managed to continue in 
existence as a Trade Union is uncertain. We have found 
no actual evidence of any other combination among com- 

1 Benjamin Franklin mentions the " chapel " and its regulations in 
1725. A copy, dated 1734, of the Rules and Orders to be observed by the 
Members of this Chapel : by Compositors, by Pressmen, by Both, is pre- 
served in the Place MSS. 27799 88. 

8 This petition (in the British Museum) is printed in Brentano's Gilds 
and Trade Unions, p. 97. Benjamin Franklin, who worked in London 
printing offices in 1725, makes no mention of Trade Unionism. The 
Stationers' Company continued, so far as the City of London was con- 
cerned, to regulate apprenticeship; and we see it, in 1775, taking steps 
to prevent employers having an undue number. Regulations agreed to 
by the employers and the compositors, as to the rates of pay for different 
kinds of work, can be traced back to 1785, at least. A copy of the rules 
of " The Phoenix, or Society of Compositors " meeting at " The Hole in 
the Wall " tavern, Fleet Street, shows that this organisation was " in- 
stituted March I2th, 1792." In 1798 five members of the " Pressmen's 
Friendly Society " were indicted for conspiracy in meeting for the purpose 
of restricting the number of apprentices (they sought to limit them to 
three for seven presses). Although the secretary to the " Society of 
Master Printers " had requested these men to attend the meeting, in 
order to get settled the pending dispute, they were convicted and sen- 
tenced to two years' imprisonment (Conflicts of Capital and Labour, by 
George Howell, 1890, p. 92). 

28 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

positors than the " chapel " earlier than the eighteenth 

One of the earliest proven cases of continuous associa- 
tion among journeymen is that of the hatters (or feltmakers), 
whose combination now the Journeymen Hatters' Trade 
Union of Great Britain and Ireland may perhaps claim to 
trace its ancestry from 1667, the very year in which the 
Feltmakers' Company, consisting of their employers, obtained 
a charter from Charles II. Within a few months the jour- 
neymen in the various London workshops each of which 
had apparently a workshop organisation somewhat resem- 
bling the printers' " chapel " had combined to present a 
petition to the Court of Aldermen against the Master, 
Wardens and Assistants of the Company. The Court of 
Aldermen decided that, in order " that the journeymen 
may not by combination or otherwise excessively at their 
pleasure raise their wages/' a piecework list is to be annually 
settled and presented for enactment by the Court of Alder- 
men. The journeymen seem to have co-operated with the 
employers in presenting this list, and in preventing the 
employment of non-freemen. The rates fixed did not, how- 
ever, always satisfy the journeymen, especially when the 
employers were successful in getting them lowered ; and in 
1696 we read of a deputation appearing before the Court to 
declare that they had resolved among themselves not to 
accept any less wages than they had formerly received, and 
to ask for a revision of the order. They had, according to 
the masters' statement, not confined themselves to peaceful 
resolutions, but had made an example of a journeyman 
who had remained at work at the reduced rates. " They 
stirred up the apprentices to seize upon him as he was 
working, to tie him in a wheelbarrow, and in a tumultuous 
and riotous manner to drive him through all the consider- 
able places in London and Southwark." It was alleged 
that the men were organised in " clubs," which " raised 
several sums of money for the abetting and supporting such 
of them who should desert their masters' service." In 1697 

The Hatters 29 

the employers introduced the " character note " or " leaving 
certificate," the Company enacting that no master should 
employ a journeyman who did not bring with him a certifi- 
cate from his previous employer. Successive prosecutions 
of journeymen took place for refusing to work at the lawful 
rates, but the workmen seem to have had good legal advice, 
and to have defended themselves with skill. On one occasion 
they pleaded guilty, and promised amendment and the 
abandonment of their combination, whereupon the prosecu- 
tion was withdrawn. On another occasion they got the 
case removed by writ of certiorari from the Lord Mayor's 
session to the Assizes, where Lord Chief Justice Holt re- 
ferred the dispute to arbitration. The award of June i6qg 
was a virtual victoy_fpj^die_jj^ 

years 7 struggle^ as it gave them aiLJnC-rase_oijates. with a 
stoppage" of all legal proceedings.. 1 That the London Trade 
CIuEsoFthe journeymen hatters, or at any rate their several 
workshop organisations, maintained a continuous existence 
we need not doubt ; though we do not hear of them again 
until 1771, when they seem to have established a national 
federation of the local trade clubs existing in more than a 
dozen provincial towns with those of Southwark and the 
West End of London, very largely for the purpose of main- 
taining and enforcing the statutory limitation of apprentices. 
In 1775 this federation appears to have been strong enough, 
not only to obtain increased rates of wages, but also the 
exclusive employment of " clubmen." There were " con- 
gresses " of the hatters in 1772, 1775, and 1777, held in 
London for the adoption of " byelaws " for the whole trade ; 
but we believe that these " congresses " were attended by 
delegates from the ^workshops in and near London only. 

1 For this interesting case we are indebted to Professor George Unwin's 
researches in the records of the Feltmakers' Company, whose, " Court 
Book " contains the record. See Industrial Organisation in the i6th and 
ijth Centuries, by George Unwin, 1904 ; "A Seventeenth -Century Trade 
Union," by the same, in Economic Journal, 1910, pp. 394-403; the 
chapter " Mediaeval Journeymen's Clubs " in Sir William Ashley's Surveys. 
Historic and Economic, 1900. 

3O The Origins of Trade Unionism 

It is clear that similar organisations existed in the other towns 
in which the trade was carried on. The members who were 
unemployed " tramped " from town to town, and regula- 
tions for their relief were framed. A weekly contribution 
of 2d. appears to have been paid by each member. The 
employers successfully petitioned Parliament in 1777 for a 
repeal of the old limitation of apprentices and a renewed 
prohibition of combination. 1 

More definite evidence is afforded by the development of 
the tailoring trade. In tailoring for rich customers the master 
craftsmen appear at the very beginning of the eighteenth 
century to have been recruited from the comparatively 
small number of journeymen who acquired the specially 
skilled part of the business namely, the cutting-out. 2 
" The tailor," says an eighteenth-century manual for the 
young tradesman, " ought to have a quick eye to steal the 
cut of a sleeve, the pattern of a flap, or the shape of a good 
trimming at a glance, . . in the passing of a chariot, or 
in the space between the door and a coach." There grew 
up accordingly a class of mere sewers, " not one in ten " 
knowing " how to cut out a pair of breeches : they are 
employed only to sew the seam, to cast the buttonholes, 
and prepare the work for the finisher. . . . Generally as 
poor as rats, the House of Call runs away with all their 
earnings, and keeps them constantly in debt and want." 3 

1 House of Commons Journals, vol. xxxvi. ; 8 Eliz. c. n ; i James I. 
c. 14; and 17 George III. 0.55; Place MSS. 27799 68; Committee on 
Artisans and Machinery, 1824 ; Industrial Democracy, p. n ; "A Seven- 
teenth Century Trade Union," by Professor George Unwin, in Economic 
Journal, 1910, pp. 394-403 ; Conflicts of Capital and Labour, by G. Howell, 
1890, p. 83. The organisation evidently continued in existence, at least 
in its local form ; but the existing national " journeymen Hatters' Trade 
Union of Great Britain and Ireland" claims tWdate only from 1798. In 
1806 the Macclesfield hatters were indicted for conspiracy in striking 
for higher wages, and sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment. 
Particulars of this organisation will be found in The Trial of W. Davenport 
. . . Hatters of Macclesfield for a Conspiracy against their Masters . . . 
by Thomas Mulineaux, 1806. 

2 For the whole history of this industry, see The Tailoring Trade, by 
F. W. Galton, 1896. 

8 The London Tradesman, by Campbell, 1747, p. 192. 

The Capitalist Employers 31 

This differentiation was promoted by the increasing need 
of capital for successfully beginning business in the better 
quarters of the metropolis. Already in 1681 the " shop- 
keeping tailor " was deplored as a new and objectionable 
feature, " for many remember when there were no new 
garments sold in London (in shops) as now there are." l 
The " accustomed tailor," or working craftsman, making up 
the customer's own cloth, objected to " taylers being sales- 
men," paying high rents for shops in fashionable neigh- 
bourhoods, giving long credit to their aristocratic clients, 
and each employing, in his own workshops, dozens or even 
scores of journeymen, who were recruited from the houses 
of call in times of pressure, and ruthlessly turned adrift 
when the season was over. And although it remained pos- 
sible in the reign of King William the Third, as it still is in 
that of King George the Fifth, to start business in a back 
street as an independent master tailor with no more capital 
or skill than the average journeyman could command, yet 
the making of the fine clothes worn by the Court and the 
gentry demanded, then as now, a capital and a skill which 
put this extensive and lucrative trade altogether out of the 
reach of the thousands of journeymen whom it employed. 
Thus we find that at the very beginning of the eighteenth 
century the typical journeyman tailor in London and West- 
minster had become a lifelong wage-earner. It is not sur- 
prising, therefore, that one of the earliest instances of 
permanent Trade Unionism that we have been able to dis- 
cover occurs in this trade. The master^ tailors in 1720 
complain to Parliament that " the Journeymen Taylors in 
and about the Cities of London and Westminster, to the 
number of seven thousand and upwards, have lately entered 
into a combination to raise their wages and leave off working 
an hour sooner than they used to do ; and for the better 
carrying on their design have subscribed their respective 
names in books prepared for that purpose, at the several 
houses of call or resort (being publick-houses in and about 

1 The Trade of England Revived, 1681, p. 36, 

32 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

London and Westminster) which they use ; and collect 
several considerable sums of money to defend any prosecu- 
tions against them." 1 Parliament listened to the masters' 
complaint, and passed the Act 7, Geo. I. st. i, c. 13, 
restraining both the giving and the taking of wages in excess 
of a stated maximum, all combinations being prohibited. 
From that time forth the journeymen tailors of London and 
Westminster have remained in effective though sometimes 
informal combination, the organisation centring round the 
fifteen or twenty " houses of call," being the public-houses 
to which it was customary for the workmen to resort, and 
at which the employers sought any additional men whom 
they wished to engage. In 1744 the Privy Council was 
set in motion against their refusal to obey the Act of 
1720.2 In 1750-51 they invoked the assistance of the 
Middlesex Justices, and obtained an order requiring the 
masters to pay certain rates. In 1767 further legislation 
was, in spite of their eloquent protests, obtained against 
them. 3 In 1810 a master declared before a Select Com- 
mittee that their combination had existed for over a 
century. 4 

An equally early instance of permanent trade combina- 
tion is the woollen manufacture of the West of England. 

1 House of Commons Journals, vol. xix. pp. 416, 424, 481 ; The Case 
of the Master Taylors residing within the Cities of London and Westminster, 
in relation to the great abuses committed by their journeymen ; An Abstract of 
the Master Taylors' Bill before the Honourable House of Commons, with the 
Journeymen's Observation on each clause of the said Bill ; The Case of the 
Journeymen Taylors residing in the Cities of London and Westminster (all 
1720). These and other documents relating to combinations in this trade 
have now been published in a useful volume (The Tailoring Trade, by F. W. 
Galton, 1896), with an elaborate bibliography. 

2 London, by David Hughson (1821), pp. 392-3 ; House of Commons 
Journals, vol. xxiv. Place MSS. 27799, pp. 4, 5. The Case of the Journeymen 
Taylors in and about the Cities of London and Westminster (January 7, 1745). 

* Gentlemen's Magazine, 1750, 1768. 

4 Place MSS. 27799 10 ; see The Life of Francis Place, 1771-1854, by 
Professor Graham Wallas, 1898 ; second edition, 1918. There is evidence 
of very similar organisation in other towns. At Birmingham, for instance, 
there was a systematically organised strike in 1777 against a reduction of 
wages, which lasted for some months (Langford's Century of Birmingham 
Life, pp. 225, etc. ; The Tailoring Trade, by F. W. Galton, 1896). 

The Clothiers 33 

Here the rise of a class of lifelong wage-earners took a form 
altogether different from that in the London tailoring trade, 
but it produced the same result of combinations among the 
workers. The " wealthy clothiers " of Somerset, Glouces- 
tershire, and Devon, who during the sixteenth century had 
" mightily increased in fame and riches, their houses fre- 
quented like kings' courts," 1 provided and owned the 
material of the industry throughout the whole manufacturing 
process, but employed a separate class of operatives at each 
stage. Buying the wool at one of the market towns, the 
capitalist clothier gave this to one set of hand-workers to 
be carded and spun into yarn in the village households. 
The yarn was passed on to another set the hand-loom 
weavers to be made into cloth in their cottages. The 
cloth was then " fulled " at the capitalist's own mill (usually 
a water-mill) and again given out to be " dressed " by a 
new set of hand- workers, after which it was ready to be 
packed in the warehouse, and dispatched to Bristol or 
London for shipment or sale. In this case, as in that of 
the tailors, the operatives still retained the ownership of 
the tools of their particular processes, but it was practically 
impossible for them to acquire either the capital or the 
commercial knowledge necessary for the success of so highly 
organised an industry, and we accordingly find them enter- 
ing into extensive combinations from the closing years 
of the seventeenth century. Already in 1675 the journey- 
men clothworkers of London combined to petition the Court 
of the Clothworkers' Company against the engagement of 
workmen from the country. In 1682 we hear of them 
taking advantage of an extensive shipping order to refuse, 

1 A Declaration of the Estate of Clothing now used within this Realme of 
England, by John May, Deputy Alnager (1613, 51 pp., in B.M. 712, g. 16), a 
volume which contains many interesting pamphlets on the woollen manu- 
facture between 1613 and 1753. Already in 1622, a year of depression of 
trade, we of numerous riots and tumults among the weavers of the 
West of England, notably those of certain Devonshire towns, who paraded 
the streets demanding work or food (Quarter Sessions from Elizabeth to 
Anne, by A. H. A. Hamilton, 1878, pp. 95-6). But there is as yet no 
evidence of durable combinations at so early a date. 


34 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

in concert, to work under 12s. per week. But it is not 
clear whether any lasting association then resulted. 1 In the 
West of England the ephemeral revolts of the early part of 
the seventeenth century seem to have developed into lasting 
combinations by the end of that century. We hear of 
them at Tiverton as early as I7oo. 2 In 1717 the Journals 
of the House of Commons contain evidence of the existence 
of a widespread combination of the woollen-workers in 
Devonshire and Somerset. The Mayor and Corporation of 
Bradninch complain " that for some years past the wool- 
combers and weavers in those parts have been confederat- 
ing how to incorporate themselves into a club : and have 
to the number of some thousands in this county, in a very 
riotous and tumultuous manner, exacted tribute from 
many." 3 The House of Commons apparently thought the 
evil could be met by Royal Authority and requested the 
King to issue a Proclamation. Accordingly on February 4, 
1718, a Royal Proclamation was issued against these " law- 
less clubs and societies which had illegally presumed to use 
a common seal, and to act as Bodies Corporate, by making 
and unlawfully conspiring to execute certain By-laws or 
Orders, whereby they pretend to determine who had a right 
to the Trade, what and how many Apprentices and Journey- 
men each man should keep at once, together with the prices 
of all their manufactures, and the manner and materials of 
which they should be wrought." 4 This kingly fulmination, 
which was read at the Royal Exchange, failed to effect its 
purpose, for the Journals of the House of Commons for 
1723 and 1725 contain frequent complaints of the con- 
tinuance of the combinations, 5 which are constantly heard 

1 MS. Minutes, Court Book of the Cloth workers' Company, December 10, 
1675 ; August 1 6, 1682 ; Industrial Organisation of the Sixteenth and 
Seventeenth Centuries, by George Unwin, 1904, p. 199. 

2 History of Tiverton, by Martin Dunsford (Exeter, 1790). 

3 House of Commons Journals, vol. xviii. p. 715, February 5, 1717. 
Tiverton and Exeter petition to the same effect. 

4 Hughson's London, p. 337. The proclamation was reprinted in Notes 
and Queries, September 21,1 867, from a copy preserved by the Sun Fire Office. 

6 See the petitions from Exeter and Dartmouth, February 24, 1723, 

The Domestic System 35 

of throughout the whole of the eighteenth century, dying 
away only on the supersession of the male by the female 
weaver at the beginning of the nineteenth century, not to 
be effectively revived until the beginning of the twentieth. 

This early development of trade combinations in the 
West of England stands in striking contrast with their 
absence in the same industry where pursued, as in York- 
shire, on the so-called " Domestic System." The Yorkshire 
weaver was a small master craftsman of the old type, him- 
self buying and owning the raw material, and once or twice 
a week selling his cloth in the markets of Leeds or Wakefield, 
to which, we are told by Defoe in 1724, " few clothiers 
bring more than one piece." " Almost at every house," 
he writes of the country near Halifax, " there was a Tenter, 
and almost on every Tenter a piece of cloth, or kersey, 
or shalloon, ... at every considerable house was a manu- 
factory ; . . . then, as every clothier must keep a horse, 
perhaps two, to fetch and carry for the use of his manu- 
facture, viz., to fetch home his wool and his provisions from 
the market, to carry his yarn to the spinners, his manu- 
facture to the fulling mill, and when finished, to the 
market to be sold, and the like ; so every manufacturer 
generally keeps a cow or two or more, for his family, and 
this employs the two or three or four pieces of enclosed 
land about his house, for they scarce sow corn enough for 
their cocks and hens." 1 Not until the Yorkshire cloth 

vol. xx. pp. 268-9 ; and those from Taunton, Tiverton, Exeter, and Bristol, 
March 3 and 7, 1725, vol. xx. pp. 598, 602, 648. In 1729 the Bristol 
weavers, " while the corporation was at church," riotously attacked the 
house of an obnoxious employer, and had to be repulsed by the troops 
(History of Bristol, p. 261, by J. Evans ; Bristol, 1824). In 1738 they forced 
the clothiers to sign a bond that they would " for ever forward " give 
fifteen pence a yard for weaving, under penalty of 1000 (Gentlemen's 
Magazine, 1738, p. 658 ; see also " An Essay on Riots, their Causes and 
Cure," published in the Gloucester Journal, and reprinted in the Gentlemen's 
Magazine, 1739, pp. 7-10). In 1756 there was an extensive and serious 
uprising (see A State of the Case and Narrative of Facts relating to the late 
Commotion and Rising of the Weavers in the County of Gloucester, in the 
Gough Collection, Bodleian Library). 

1 Defoe's Tour, vol. iii. pp. 97-101, 116 (1724). John Bright mentions 

36 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

dealers began, about 1794, to establish factories on a large 
scale do we find any Trade Unions, and then journeymen 
and small masters struggled with one accord to resist the 
new form of capitalist industry which was beginning to 
deprive them of their control over the product of their 

The worsted industry appears everywhere to have been 
carried on rather like the woollen manufactures of the 
West of England than the same industry in Yorkshire. 
The woolcomber frequently owned the inexpensive hand- 
combs and pots with which he worked. But the wool- 
combers, like the weavers of the West of England, formed 
but one of several classes of workers for whose employ- 
ment both capital and commercial knowledge was indis- 
pensable. We hear, already in 1674, of an attempt by the 
Leicester woolcombers to " form a company," * though 
with what success we know not. In 1741 it was remarked 
that the woolcombers had "for a number of years past 
erected themselves into a sort of corporation (though 
without a charter) ; their first pretence was to take care 
of their poor brethren that should fall sick, or be out of 
work ; and this was done by meeting once or twice a week, 
and each of them contributing 2d. or 3d. towards the box 
to make a bank, and when they became a little formidable 
they gave laws to their masters, as also to themselves 
viz., That no man should comb wool under 2s. per dozen ; 
that no master should employ any comber that was not of 
their club : if he did they agreed one and all not to work 
for him ; and if he had employed twenty they all of them 
turned out, and oftentimes were not satisfied with that, 
but would abuse the honest man that would labour, and in 

his father's apprenticeship, about 1789, to " a most worthy man who had 
a few acres of ground, a very small farm, and three or four looms in hi3 
house" (speech reported in Beehive, February 2, 1867). For a less 
optimistic account of the Yorkshire clothiers, who were, even in the seven- 
teenth century, often mere wage-earners, see Cartwright's Chapters of 
Yorkshire History. 

1 History of Leicester, by James Thompson, 1849, pp. 431-2. 

Woolcombers' Clubs 37 

a riotous manner beat him, break his comb-pots, and 
destroy his working tools ; they further support one another 
in so much that they are become one society throughout 
the kingdom. And that they may keep up their price to 
encourage idleness rather than labour, if any one of their 
club is out of work, they give him a ticket and money to 
seek for work at the next town where a box club is, where 
he is also subsisted, suffered to live a certain time with them, 
and then used as before ; by which means he can travel 
the kingdom round, be caressed at each club, and not spend 
a farthing of his own or strike one stroke of work. This 
hath been imitated by the weavers also, though not carried 
through the kingdom, but confined to the places where 
they work/' x The surviving members of the Old Amicable 
Society of Woolstaplers retain a tradition of local trade 
clubs dating from the very beginning of the eighteenth 
century, and of their forming a federal union in 1785. Old 
members of the United Journeymen Curriers' Society have 
seen circulars and tramping cards, showing that a similar 
.tramping federation existed in their trade from the middle 
of the century. 2 

In other cases the expensive nature of the raw material 
or the tools aided the creation of a separate class. The 
Spitalfields silk-weavers, whom we find forming a permanent 
organisation in 1773, could never have owned the costly 
silks they wove. 3 The gold-beaters, whose union dates 
at any rate from 1777, were similarly debarred from owning 
the material. 

1 A Short Essay upon Trade-in General, by " A Lover of his Country," 
1741, quoted in James' History of the Worsted Manufacture in England, 
p. 232. 

* See, in corroboration, Leicester Herald, August 24, 1793 ; Morning 
Chronicle, October 13, 1824 ; Place MSS., 27801 246, 247. 

8 The Dublin silk-weavers, owing perhaps to their having been largely 
Huguenot refugees in a Roman Catholic town, appear to have been associ- 
ated from the early part of the eighteenth century ; see, for instance, The 
Case of the Silk and Worsted Weavers in a Letter to a Member of Parliament 
(Dublin, 1749, 8 pp.). Compare A Short Historical Account of the Silk 
Manufacture in England, by Samuel Sholl, 1811, and Industrial Dublin 
since 1698 and the Silk Industry in Dublin, by J. J. Webb, 1913. 

38 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

Another remarkable instance of combination prior to 
the introduction of mechanical power and the factory 
system is that of the " stockingers," the hosiery workers, 
or framework knitters, described by Dr. Brentano. From 
the very beginning of the use of the stocking-frame, in the 
early part of the seventeenth century, servants appear to 
have been set to- work upon frames owned by capitalists, 
though the bulk of the trade was in the hands of men who 
worked upon their own frames as independent producers. 
The competition of these embryo factories was severely 
felt by the domestic framework knitter, and on the final 
breakdown, in 1753, of the legal limitation of apprentices, 
it became disastrous. There grew up a " ruinous practice 
of parishes giving premiums to manufacturers for employing 
their poor," and this flooding of the labour market with 
subsidised child labour reduced the typical framework 
knicter to a state of destitution. Though he continued to 
work in his cottage, he rapidly lost the ownership of his 
frame, and a system arose under which the frames were 
hired at a rent, either from a small capitalist frame-owner, 
or from the manufacturer by whom the work was given 
out. The operative was thus deprived, not only of the 
ownership of the product, but also of the instruments of his 
labour. Hence, although from the very beginning of the 
eighteenth century there were ephemeral combinations 
among the framework knitters, in which masters and men 
often joined, it was not until 1780, when the renting of 
frames had become general, that a durable Trade Union 
of wage-earners arose. 1 

The development of the industrial organisation of the 

1 The condition of the framework knitters may be gathered from the 
elaborate Parliamentary Inquiry, the proceedings of which fill fifteen 
pages of the Journals of the House of Commons, vol. xxvi., April 19, 1753. 
See also vols. xxxvi. and xxxvii., and the Report from the Committee on 
Framework Knitters' Petitions, 1812 ; and Conflicts of Capital and Labour, 
by G. Howell, 1890. Felkin's History of the Machine-wrought Hosiery and 
Lace Manufactures, 1867, contains an exhaustive account of the trade, 
founded on Gravener Henson's History of the Framework Knitters, 1831, 
now a scarce work, of which only one volume was published. 

The Shipwrights 39 

cutlery trades affords another example of this evolution. 
At the date of the establishment in Sheffield of the Cutlers' 
Company (1624) the typical craftsman was himself the owner 
of his " wheel " and other instruments, and a strict limitation 
of apprentices was maintained. By 1791, when the masters 
obtained from Parliament a formal ratification of the pre- 
valent relaxation in the customary restrictions as to appren- 
tices, we find this system largely replaced by something 
very like the present order of things, in which the typical 
Sheffield operative works with material given out by the 
manufacturer, upon wheels rented either from the latter or 
from a landlord supplying power. It is no mere coincidence 
that in the year 1790 the Sheffield employers found them- 
selves obliged to take concerted action against the " scissor- 
grinders and other workmen who have entered into un- 
lawful combinations to raise the price of labour." * 

The shipwrights of Liverpool, and probably those of 
other shipbuilding ports, were combined in trade benefit 
clubs early in the eighteenth century. At Liverpool, 
where this society had very successfully maintained the 
customary limitation of apprentices, the members were 
all freemen of the municipal corporation, and as such 
entitled to the Parliamentary franchise. As a result the 
shipwrights' organisation became intensely political, by 
which was meant chiefly the negotiation of the sale of its 
members' votes. At the election of 1790, when Whigs 
and Tories compromised in order to avoid the expense of 
a contest, it was the Shipwrights' Society, then at the zenith 
of its power, which insisted on forcing a contest by nominat- 
ing its own candidate, and, in the end, actually put him 
at the head of the poll. The society, which had a contribu- 
tion in 1824 of fifteen pence per month, and had built alms- 
houses for its old members, is reputed to have been at one 

1 Sheffield Iris, August 7 and September 9, 1790. The Scissorsmiths' 
Friendly Society, cited by Dr. Brentano, was established in April 1791. 
Other trade friendly societies in Sheffield appear to date from a much 
earlier period. 

40 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

time so powerful that any employer who refused to obey 
its rules found his business absolutely brought to a stand- 
still. 1 

But the cardinal example of the conception of Trade 
Unionism with the divorce of the worker from the instru- 
ments of production is seen in the rapid rise of trade com- 
binations on the introduction of the factory system. We 
have already noticed that Trade Unions in Yorkshire began 
with the erection of factories and the use of power. When, 
in 1794, the clothiers of the West Riding failed to prevent 
the Leeds merchants from establishing large factories, 
" wherein it is intended to employ a great number of persons 
now working at their own homes," the journeymen took 
the matter into their own hands, and founded " the Clothiers' 
Community," or " Brief Institution," professedly to gather 
" briefs " or levies for the relief of the sick, and to carry on 
a Parliamentary agitation for hampering the factory owners 
by a legal limitation of apprentices. " It appears," reports 
the Parliamentary Committee of 1806, " that there has 
existed for some time an institution or society among the 
woollen manufacturers, consisting chiefly of clothworkers. 
In each of the principal manufacturing towns there appears 
to be a society, composed of deputies chosen from the 
several shops of workmen, from each of which town societies 
one or more deputies are chosen to form what is called the 
central committee, which meets, as occasion requires, at 
some place suitable to the local convenience of all parties. 
The powers of the central committee appear to pervade 
the whole institution ; and any determination or measure 
which it may adopt may be communicated with ease through- 
out the whole body of manufacturers. Every workman, 
on his becoming a member of the society, receives a certain 
card or ticket, on which is an emblematical engraving the 

1 Sir J. A. Picton's Memorials of Liverpool, 1875; A Digest of the 
Evidence before the Committee on Artizans and Machinery, by George 
White, 1824, p. 233 ; Conflicts of Labour and Capital, by G. Ho well, 
1890, pp. 82-3. 

The Cotton-spinners 41 

same, the Committee are assured, both in the North and 
the West of England that by producing his ticket he may 
at once show he belongs to the society. The same rules 
and regulations appear to be in force throughout the whole 
district, and there is the utmost reason to believe that no 
clothworker would be suffered to carry on his trade, other- 
wise than in solitude, who should refuse to submit to the 
obligations and rules of the society." x The transformation 
of cotton-spinning into a factory industry, which may be 
said to have taken place round about the year 1780, was 
equally accompanied by the growth of Trade Unionism. 
The so-called benefit clubs of the Oldham operatives, which 
we know to have existed from 1792, and those of Stockport, 
of which we hear in 1796, were the forerunners of that 
network of spinners' societies throughout the northern 
counties and Scotland which rose into notoriety in the 
great strikes of the next thirty years. 2 

It is easy to understand how the massing together in 
factories of regiments of men all engaged in the same trade 
facilitated and promoted the formation of journeymen's 
rade societies. But with the cotton-spinners, as with the 
ailors, the rise of permanent trade combinations is to be 
iscribed, in a final analysis, to the definite separation 
>etween the functions of the capitalist entrepreneur and the 
nanual worker between, that is to say, the direction of 
ndustrial opefations and their execution. It has, indeed, 
>ecome a commonplace of modern Trade Unionism that 
>nly in those industries in which the worker has ceased to 
oe concerned in the profits of buying and selling that 
nseparable characteristic of the ownership and management 

the means of production can effective and stable trade 
>rganisations be established. 

The positive proofs of this historical dependence of 
Trade Unionism upon the divorce of the worker from the 

1 Report of Committee on the Woollen Manufacture, 1806, p. 16 ; see also 
Conflicts of Labour and Capital, by G. Howell, 1890. 

2 See Chapter III. 


42 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

ownership of the means of production are complemented 
by the absence of any permanent trade combinations in 
industries in which the divorce had not taken place. The 
degradation of the Standard of Life of the skilled manual 
worker on the break-up of the mediaeval system occurred 
in all sorts of trades, whether the operative retained his 
ownership of the means of production or not, but Trade 
Unionism followed only where the change took the form 
of a divorce between capital and labour. The Corporation 
of Pinmakers of London are found petitioning Parliament 
towards the end of the seventeenth century or beginning of 
the eighteenth, as follows : 

" This company consists for the most part of poor and 
indigent people, who have neither credit nor mony to pur- 
chase wyre of the merchant at the best hand, but are forced 
for want thereof to buy only small parcels of the second 
or third buyer as they have occasion to use it, and to sell 
off the pins they make of the same from week to week, 
as soon as they are made, for ready money to feed them- 
selves, their wives and children, whom they are constrained 
to imploy to go up and down every Saturday night from 
shop to shop to offer their pins to sale, otherwise cannot 
have money to buy bread. And these are daily so exceed- 
ingly multiplyed and encreased by reason of the unlimited 
number of apprentices that some few covetous-minded 
members of the company (who have considerable stocks) 
do constantly imploy and keep. . . . The persons that 
buy the pins from the maker to sell again to other retailing 
shopkeepers, taking advantage of this necessity of the 
poor workmen (who are always forced to sell for ready 
mony, or otherwise cannot subsist), have by degrees so 
beaten down the price of pins that the workman is not able 
to live of his work, . . . and betake themselves to be 
porters, tankard bearers, and other day labourers, . . . and 
many of their children do daily become parish charges." l 

1 In volume entitled Tracts Relating to Trade, in British Museum, 816, 
m. 13. Tankard -bearers were water carriers. 

The Glovers 43 

And the glovers complain at the same period that " they 
are generally so poor that they are supplied with leather 
upon credit, not being able to pay for that or their work- 
folk's wages till they have sold the gloves/' x 

Now, although these pinmakers and glovers, and other 
trades in like condition, fully recognised the need for some 
protection of their Standard of Life, we do not find any 
trace of Trade Unionism among them. Selling as they 
did, not their labour alone, but also its product, their only 
resource was legislative protection of the price of their 
wares. 8 In short, in those industries in which the cleavage 
between capitalist and artisan, manager and manual 
labourer, was not yet complete, the old gild policy of com- 
mercial monopoly was resorted to as the only expedient for 
protecting the Standard of Life of the producer. 

We do not contend that the divorce supplies, in itself, 
a complete explanation of the origin of Trade Unions. 
At all times in the history of English industry there 
have existed large classes of workers as much debarred 
from becoming the directors of their own industry as the 
eighteenth-century tailor or woolcomber, or as the modern 
cotton-spinner or miner. Besides the semi-servile workers 
on the land or in the mines, it is certain that there were in 
the towns a considerable class of unskilled labourers, 
excluded, through lack of apprenticeship, from any participa- 
tion in the gild. 3 By the eighteenth century, at any rate, 

1 Reasons against the designed leather impositions on gloves, B.M. 816, 
m. 13. 

2 We shall have occasion later to refer to the absence of effective 
Trade Unionism in those trades which are still carried on by small working 

8 The assumption frequently made that the Craft Gilds, at their best 
period, included practically the whole working population, appears to us 
unfounded. The gild system at no time extended to any but the skilled 
handicraftsmen, alongside of whom must always have worked a large 
number of unapprenticed labourers, who received less than half the wages 
of the craftsmen. We venture to suggest that it is doubtful whether the 
Craft Gilds at any time numbered as large a proportion of the working 
population as the Trade Unions of the present day. See Industrial 
Democracy, p. 480. 


44 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

he numbers of this class must have been largely swollen, 
by the increased demand for common labour involved in 
the growth of the transport trade, the extensive building 
operations, etc. But it is not among the farm servants, 
miners, or general labourers, ill-paid and ill-treated as 
these often were, that the early Trade Unions arose. We 
do not even hear of ephemeral combinations among them, 
and only very occasionally of transient strikes. 1 The 
formation of independent associations to resist the will of 
employers requires the possession of a certain degree of 
personal independence and strength of character. Thus 
we find the earliest Trade Unions arising among journeymen 
whose skill and Standard of Life had been for centuries' 
encouraged and protected by legal or customary regulations 
as to apprenticeship, and by the limitation of their numbers 
which the high premiums and other conditions must have 
involved. , It is often assumed that Trade Unionism arose 
as a protest against intolerable industrial oppression. This 
was not so. The first half of the eighteenth century was 
certainly not a period of exceptional distress/ For fifty 
years from 1710 there was an almost constant succession 
of good harvests, the price of wheat remaining unusually 
low. The tailors of London and Westminster united, at 
the very beginning of the eighteenth century, not to resist 
..any reduction of their customary earnings, but to wring 
from their employers better wages and shorter hours of 
labour. The few survivors of the hand woolcombers still 
cherish the tradition of the eighteenth century, when they 
styled themselves " gentlemen woolcombers," refused to 

1 " Tumults," or strikes, among the coal-miners are occasionally men- 
tioned during the eighteenth century, but no lasting combinations. See, 
for those in Somerset, Carmarthenshire, etc., in 1757, Gentlemen's Magazine, 
1757, pp. 90, 185, 285, etc. In 1765 there was a prolonged strike against 
the " yearly bond "by the Durham miners (Calendar of Home Office Papers, 
1765 ; Sykes' Local Records, vol. i, p. 254). The Keelmen, who loaded 
coals on the Tyne, "mutinied" in 1654 and 1671 "for the increase of 
wages " ; and there were fierce strikes in 1710, 1744, 1750, 1771, and 1794. 
We have, however, no particulars as to their associations, which were 
probably ephemeral (Sykes' Local Records ; Richardson's Local Historian's 
Table Book ; Gentlemen's Magazine, 1750). 

Trade Clubs 45 

drink with other operatives, and were strong enough, 
we have seen, to give " laws to their masters." l The very 
superior millwrights, whose exclusive trade clubs preceded 
any general organisation of the engineering trade, had for 
" their everyday garb " a " long frock coat and tall hat/' 2 
And the curriers, hatters, woolstaplers, shipwrights, brush- 
makers, basketmakers, and calico-printers, who furnish 
prominent instances of eighteenth-century Trade Unionism, 
all earned relatively high wages, and long maintained a very 
effectual resistance to the encroachments of their employers. 
It appears to us from these facts that Trade Unionism 
would have been a feature of English industry, even with- 
out the steam-engine and the factory system. Whether 
the association of superior workmen which arose in the 
early part of the century would, in such an event, ever 
have developed into a Trade Union Movement is another .X 
matter. The typical " trade club " of the town artisan of 
this time was an isolated " ring " of highly skilled journey- 
men, who were even more decisively' marked off from the 
mass of the manual workers than from the small class of 
capitalist employers. The customary enforcement of the 
apprenticeship prescribed by the Elizabethan statutes, and 
the high premiums often exacted from parents not belonging 
to the trade, long maintained a virtual monopoly of the 
better-paid handicrafts in the hands of an almost hereditary 
caste of " tradesmen " in whose ranks the employers them- , 
selves had for the most part served their apprenticeship. 1 
Enjoying, as they did, this legal or customary protection, 
they found their trade clubs of use mainly for the provision 
of friendly benefits, and for " higgling " with their masters 
for better terms. We find little trace among such trade 
clubs of that sense of solidarity between the manual workers 

1 Many instances of insolence and aggression by the woolcombers are 
on record ; the employers' advertisements in the Nottingham Journal, 
August 31, 1795, and the Leicester Herald of June 1792, are only two out 
of many similar recitals. 

z Jubilee Souvenir History of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, 

I9OI, p. 12. 

46 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

of different trades which afterwards became so marked a 
feature of the Trade Union Movement. Their occasional 
disputes with their employers resembled rather family 
differences than conflicts between distinct social classes. 
They exhibit more tendency to " stand in " with their 
masters against the community, or to back them against 
rivals or interlopers, than to join their fellow- workers of 
other trades in an attack upon the capitalist class. In short, 
we have industrial society still divided vertically trade by 
trade, instead of horizontally between employers and wage- 
earners. This latter cleavage it is which has transformed 
the Trade Unionism of petty groups of skilled workmen 
into the modern Trade Union Movement. 1 

The pioneers of the Trade Union Movement were not 
the trade clubs of the town artisans, but the extensive 
combinations of the West of England woollen-workers 
and the Midland framework knitters. It was these associa- 
tions that initiated what afterwards became the common 
'purpose of nearly all eighteenth-century combinations the 
lappeal to the Government and the House of Commons to 
, | save the wage-earners from the new policy of buying labour, 
like the raw material of manufacture, in the cheapest 

1 That such clubs were common in the handicraft trades in London as 
early as 1720 appears from the following extract from The Case of the Master 
Taylors residing within the Cities of London and Westminster, a petition 
which led to the Act of 1720 : " This combination of the Journeymen 
Taylors ... is of very ill example to Journeymen in all other trades ; as 
is sufficiently seen in the Journeymen Curriers, Smiths, Farriers, Sail- 
makers, Coachmakers, and artificers of divers other arts and mysteries, 
who have actually entered into Confederacies of the like nature ; and the 
Journeymen Carpenters, Bricklayers, and Joyners have taken some steps 
for that purpose, and only wait to see the event of others." And the 
Journeymen Tailors in their petition of 1745 allude to the large number of 
"Monthly Clubs" among the London handicraftsmen. With regard to 
the curriers at this date, see Place MSS, 27801 246, 247. 

It may be conveniently noticed here that, although strikes are, as we 
have seen, as old as the fourteenth century at least, -the word " strike " was 
not commonly used in this sense until the latter part of the eighteenth 
century. The Oxford Dictionary gives the first instance of its use as in 
1768, when the Annual Register refers to the hatters having " struck " for 
a rise in wages. The derivation appears to be from the sailors' term of 
" striking " the mast, thus bringing the movement to a stop. 

The Industrial Revolution 47 

market. The rapidly changing processes and widening 
markets of English industry seemed to demand the sweeping 
away of all restrictions on the supply and employment of 
labour, a process which involved the levelling of all classes 
of wage-earners to their " natural wages." The first to 
teel the encroachment on their customary earnings were 
the woollen-workers employed by the capitalist clothiers 
of the Western counties. As the century advances we find 
trade after trade taking up the agitation against the new 
conditions, and such old-established clubs as the hatters and 
the woolcombers joining the general movement as soon as 
their own industries are menaced. To the skilled craftsman 
in the towns the new policy was brought home by the 
repeal of the regulations which protected his trade against 
an influx of pauper labour. His defence was to ask for the , 
enforcement of the law relating to apprenticeship. 1 This 
would not have helped the operative in the staple textile ' 
industries. To him the new order took the form of 
constantly declining piecework rates. What he demanded, 
therefore, was the fixing of the " convenient proportion of 
wages " contemplated by Elizabethan legislation. But, 
whether craftsmen or factory operatives, the wage-earners 
turned, for the maintenance of their Standard of Life, to / 
that protection by the law upon which they had been \ 
taught to rely. So long as each section of workers believed > 
in the intention of the governing class to protect their trade 
from the results of unrestricted competition no community ^ 
of interest arose. It was a change of industrial policy on 
the part of the Government that brought all trades into 
line, and for the first time produced what can properly be 
called a Trade Union Movement. In order, therefore, to 
make this movement fully intelligible, we must now retrace 
our steps, and follow the political history of industry in 
the eighteenth century. 

1 So much is this the case that Dr. Brentano asserts that " Trade 
Unions originated with the non-observance of " the Elizabethan Statute 
of Apprentices (p. 104), and that their primary object was, in all cases, the 
enforcement of the law on the subject. 

48 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

The dominant industrial policy of the sixteenth century 
was the establishment of some regulating authority to 
perform, for the trade of the time, the services formerly 
rendered by the Craft Gilds. When, for instance, in the 
middle of the century the weavers found their customary 
earnings dwindling, they managed so far to combine as to 
make their voice heard at Westminster. In 1555 we find 
them complaining " that the rich and wealthy clothiers 
do many ways oppress them " by putting unapprenticed 
men to work on the capitalists' own looms, by letting out 
looms at rents, and " some also by giving much less wages 
and hire for the weaving and workmanship of clothes than 
in times past they did." x To the Parliament of these days 
it seemed right and natural that the oppressed wage-earners 
should turn to the legislature to protect them against the 
cutting down of their earnings by the competing capitalists. 
The statutes of 1552 and 1555 forbid the use of the gig-mill, 
restrict the number of looms that one person may own to 
two in towns and one in the country, and absolutely pro- 
hibit the letting-out of looms for hire or rent. In 1563, 
indeed, Parliament expressly charged itself with securing 
to all wage-earners a " convenient " livelihood. The old 
laws fixing a maximum wage could not, in face of the 
enormous rise of prices, be put in force " without the great 
grief and burden of the poor labourer and hired man." 
Circumstances were changing too fast for any rigid rule. 
But by the celebrated " Statute of Apprentices " the 
statesmen of the time contrived arrangements which would, 
as they hoped, " yield unto the hired person, both in the 
time of scarcity and in the time of plenty, a convenient 
proportion of wages/' Every year the justices of each 
locality were to meet, " and calling unto them such discreet 
and grave persons ... as they shall think meet, and 
conferring together respecting the plenty or scarcity of the 

1 Preamble to " An Act touching Weavers " (2 and 3 Philip and Mary, 
c. xi.) ; see Froude's History of England, vol. i. pp. 57-9 ; and W. C. 
Taylor's Modern Factory System, pp. 53-5. 

The Act of Elizabeth' 49 

time," were to fix the wages of practically every kind of 
labour, 1 their decisions being enforceable by heavy penalties. 
Stringent regulations as to the necessity of apprenticeship, j 
the length of its term, and the number of apprentices to be j 
taken by each employer, received the confirmation of law. : 
The typical ordinances of the mediaeval gild were, in fact, I 
enacted in minute detail in a comprehensive general statute ' 
applying to the greater part of the industry of the period. 

We need not discuss the very debatable question whether 
this celebrated law was or was not advantageous to the 
labouring folk of the time, or whether and to what extent 
its provisions were actually put in force. 2 But codifying 
and enacting as it did the fundamental principles of the 
mediaeval social order, we can scarcely be surprised that its 
adoption by Parliament confirmed the working man in the 
once universal belief in the essential justice and good policy 
securing by appropriate legislation " the getting of a com- 
petent livelihood " by all those concerned in industry. 3 
Exactly the same view prevailed at the beginning of the 
eighteenth century. We again find the newly established 
associations of the operatives appealing to the King, to the 
House of Commons, or to Quarter Sessions against the 
beating down of their wages by their employers. For the 
first half of the century the governing classes continued to 
act on the assumption that the industrious mechanic had a 
right to the customary earnings of his trade. Thus in 
1726 the weavers of Wilts and Somerset combine to petition 

1 As expanded by i James I. c. 6 and 16 Car. I. c. 4 ; see R. v. Justices 
of Kent, 14 East, 395. 

2 See on these points, Dr. Cunningham's History of English Industry 
and Commerce, Mr. Hewins' English Trade and Finance chiefly in the ijth 
Century, and Thorold Rogers' History of Agriculture and Prices, vol. v. 
pp. 625-6, etc. Adam Smith observes that the fixing of wages had, in 
1776, " gone entirely into disuse " (Wealth of Nations, bk. i. ch. x. p. 65), 
a statement broadly true, although formal determinations of wages are 
found in the MS. Minutes of Quarter Sessions for another half century. 

3 This forms the constant refrain of the numerous broadsheets or 
Tracts relating to Trade of 1688-1750, which are preserved in the British 
Museum, the Guildhall Library, and in the Goldsmith Company's Library 
at the University of London. 


5O The Origins of Trade Unionism 

the King against the harshness and fraud of their employers 
the clothiers, with the result that a Committee of the Privy 
Council investigates their grievances, and draws up " Articles 
of Agreement " for the settlement of the matters in dispute, 1 
admonishing the weavers " for the future " not to attempt 
to help themselves by unlawful combinations, but always 
" to lay their grievances in a regular way before His Majesty, 
who would be always ready to grant them relief suitable to 
the justice of their case." 2 More often the operatives 
appealed to the House of Commons. In 1719 the " broad 
and narrow weavers " of Stroud and places round, petitioned 
Parliament to put down the tyrannical capitalist clothiers 
by enforcing the " Act touching Weavers " of 1555. 3 In 
1728 the Gloucestershire operatives appealed to the local 
justices of the peace, and induced them, in spite of protests 
from the master clothiers, and apparently for the first time, 
to fix a liberal scale of wages for the weavers of the country. 4 
Twenty years later the operatives obtained from Parliament 
a special prohibition of truck. 5 Finally, in 1756 they 
persuaded the House of Commons to pass an Act 6 pro- 
viding for the fixing of piecework prices by the justices, 
in order that the practice of cutting down rates and under- 
selling might be stopped. " A Table or Scheme for Rates 
of Wages " was accordingly settled at Quarter Sessions, 
November 6, 1756, with which the operatives were fairly 
contented. 7 

The next few years saw a revolutionary change in the 
industrial policy of the legislature which must have utterly 

1 Privy Council Minutes of 1726, p. 310 (unpublished) ; see also 
House of Commons Journals, vol. xx. p. 745 (February 20, 1726). 
8 Privy Council Minutes, February 4, 1726. 

3 House of Commons Journals, vol. xix. p. 181 (December 5, 1719). 

4 Petition of " Several weavers of Woollen Broadcloth on behalf of 
themselves and several thousands of the Fraternity of Woollen Broadcloth 
Weavers " (House of Commons Journals, vol. xxvii. p. 503 ; see also pp. 

6 22 Geo. II. c. 27. 
* 29 Geo. II. c. 33. 

7 Report of Committee on Petitions of West of England Clothiers, House 
of Commons Journals, vol. xxvii. pp. 730-2. 

Laisser-faire 51 

bewildered the operatives. Within a generation the House * . 
of Commons exchanged its policy of mediaeval protection ' 
for one of " Administrative Nihilism." The Woollen Cloth 
Weavers' Act of 1756 had not been one year in force when , 
Parliament was assailed by numerous petitions and counter 
petitions. The employers declared that the rates fixed by j 
the justices were, in face of the growing competition of 
Yorkshire, absolutely impracticable. The operatives, on the 
other hand, asked that the Act might be strengthened in 
their favour. The clothiers asserted the advantages of free- 
dom of contract and unrestrained competition. The weavers 
received the support of the landowners and gentry in claim- 
ing the maintenance by law of their customary earnings. 
The perplexed House of Commons wavered between the 
two. At first a Bill was ordered to be drawn strengthening 
the existing law ; but ultimately the clothiers were held to ^ 
have proved their case. 1 The Act of 1756 was, in 1757, 
unconditionally repealed ; and Parliament was now heading 
straight for laisser-faire. 

The struggle over this Woollen Cloth Weavers' Act of 
1756 marks the passage from the old ideas to the new. 
When, in 1776, the weavers, spinners, scribblers, and other 
woollen operatives of Somerset petitioned against the evil 
that was being done to their accustomed livelihood by the 
introduction of the spinning- jenny into Shepton Mallet, the 
House of Commons, which had two centuries before abso- 
lutely prohibited the gig-mill, refused even to allow the 
petition to be received. 2 

The change of policy had already affected another trade. 
The London Framework Knitters' Company, which had ( 
been incorporated in 1663 for the express purpose of regu- 
lating the trade, found itself during the first half of the 
eighteenth century in continual conflict with recalcitrant 
masters who set its bye-laws at defiance. This long struggle, 
in which the journeymen took vigorous action in support of 

1 For all these proceedings, see House of Commons Journals, vol. xxvii. 
8 House of Commons Journals, vol. xxxvi. p. 7 (November i, 1776). 

52 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

the Company, was brought to an end in 1753 by an ex- 
haustive Parliamentary inquiry. The bye-laws of the Com- 
pany, upon the enforcement of which the journeymen had 
rested all their hopes, were solemnly declared to be " in- 
jurious and vexatious to the manufacturers," whilst the 
Company's authority was pronounced to be " hurtful to the 
trade." l The total abandonment of all legal regulation of 
the trade led, after numerous transitory revolts, to the 
establishment in 1778 of " The Stocking Makers' Associa- 
tion for the Mutual Protection in the Midland Counties of 
England," having for its objects the limitation of apprentices, 
and the enactment of a fixed rate of wages. Dr. Brentano 
has summarised the various attempts made by the operatives 
during the next two years to secure the protection of the 
legislature. 2 Through the influence of their Union a sym- 
pathetic member was returned for the borough of Notting- 
ham. Investigation by a committee brought to light a 
degree of " sweating " scarcely paralleled even by the worst 
modern instances. A Bill for the fixing of wages had actu- 
ally passed its second reading when the employers, whipping 
up all their friends in the House, defeated it on the third 
reading a rebuff to the workmen which led to serious riots 
at Nottingham, and thrust the unfortunate framework 
knitters back into despairing poverty. 3 

By this time the town craftsmen were also beginning to 
be menaced by the revolutionary proposals of their em- 
ployers. The hatters, for example, whose early combina- 
tion we have already mentioned, had hitherto been pro- 
tected by the strict limitation of the number of apprentices 
prescribed by the Acts of 1566 and 1603, and enforced by 
the Feltmakers' Company. We gather from the employers' 
complaints that the journeymen's organisation, which by 

1 House of Commons Journals, April 13 and 19, 1753, vol. xxvi. pp. 764, 
779 ; Felkin's History of the Machine-wrought Hosiery and Lace Manufac- 
ture, p. 80 ; Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce in 
Modern Times, 1903, vol. i. p. 663. 

2 Gilds and Trade Unions, pp. 115-21. 

8 House of Commons Journals, vols. xxxvi. and xxxvii. 

The Commons Perplexity 53 

this time extended to most of the provincial towns in which 
hats were made, was aiming at a strict enforcement of the 
law limiting the number of apprentices which each master 
might take. This caused the leading master hatters to 
promote, in 1777, a Bill to remove the limitation. Against * 
them was marshalled the whole strength of the journeymen's 
organisation. Petitions poured in from London, Burton, 
Bristol, Chester, Liverpool, Hexham, Derby, and other 
places, the " piecemaster hat or feltmakers and finishers " 
usually joining with the journeymen against the demand of 
the capitalist employers. The men asserted that, even with 
the limitation, " except at brisk times many hundreds are 
obliged to go travelling up and down the kingdom in search 
of employ." But the House was impressed with the evidence / 
and arguments of the large employers, and their Bill passed 
into law. 1 

The action of the House of Commons on occasions like . 
these was not as yet influenced by any conscious theory of 
freedom of contract. What happened was that, as each 
trade in turn felt the effect of the new capitalist competi- ^ 
tion, the journeymen, and often also the smaller employers, 
would petition for redress, usually demanding the prohibi- 
tion of the new machines, the enforcement of a seven years' 
apprenticeship, or the maintenance of the old limitation of 
the number of boys to be taught by each employer. The 
House would as a rule appoint a Committee to investigate 
the complaint, with the full intention of redressing the 
alleged grievance. But the large employers would produce ^ 
before that Committee an overwhelming array of evidence 
proving that without the new machinery the growing export " 
trade must be arrested ; that the new processes could be 
learnt in a few months instead of seven years ; and that 
the restriction of the old master-craftsmen to two or three ' 
apprentices apiece was out of the question with the new 
buyers of labour on a large scale. Confronted with such a 

1 House of Commons Journals, vol. xxxvi. pp. 192, 240, 268, 287, 1777; 
Act 17 Geo. III. c. 55, repealing 8 Eliz. c. n, and i Jac. i. 


54 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

case as this for the masters even the most sympathetic 
committee seldom found it possible to endorse the proposals 
of the artisans. In fact, these proposals were impossible. 
The artisans had a grievance perhaps the worst that any 
class can have the degradation of their standard of liveli- 
hood by circumstances which enormously increased the pro- 
ductivity of their labour. But they mistook the remedy ; 
and Parliament, though it saw the mistake, could devise 
nothing better. Common sense forced the Government to 
take the easy and obvious step of abolishing the mediaeval 
regulations which industry had outgrown. But the problem 
of protecting the workers' Standard of Life under the new 
conditions was neither easy nor obvious, and it remained 
unsolved until the nineteenth century discovered the ex- 
pedients of Collective Bargaining and Factory Legislation, 
developing, in the twentieth century, into the fixing by law 
^ of a Minimum Wage. In the meantime the workers were 
left to shift for themselves, the attitude of Parliament to- 
wards them being for the first years one of pure perplexity, 
quite untouched by the doctrine of freedom of contract. 

That the House of Commons remained innocent of any 
general theory against legislative interference long after it 
had begun the work of sweeping away the mediaeval regula- 
tions is proved by the famous case of the Spitalfields silk- 
weavers, in which the old policy of industrial regulation was 
reverted to. In 1765 the Spitalfields weavers protested 
that they were without employment, owing to the importa- 
tion of foreign silk. Assembling in crowds, they marched 
in processions to Westminster, headed by bands and banners, 
and demanded the prohibition of the import of the foreign 
product. Riots occurred sufficiently serious to induce Par- 
liament to pass an Act in the terms desired ; x but this 
experiment in Protection failed to maintain wages, and the 
riots were renewed in 1769. Finally Sir John Fielding, the 
well-known London police magistrate, suggested to the 

1 5 Geo. III. c. 48 ; see Annual Register, 1765, p. 41 ; Cunningham, Growth 
of English Industry and Commerce in Modern Times, 1903, pp. 519, 796. 

The Spitalfields Acts 55 

London silkweavers that they should secure their earnings 
by an Act. 1 Under the pressure of another outbreak of 
rioting in 1773, Parliament adopted this proposal, and em- 
powered the justices to fix the rates of wages and to enforce 
their maintenance. The effect of this enactment upon the 
men's combination is significant. " A great man " had told 
the weavers, as one of them relates, that the governing class 
" made laws, and we, the people, must make legs to them." 2 
The ephemeral combination to obtain the Act became 
accordingly a permanent union to enforce it. From this 
time forth we hear no more of strikes or riots among the 
Spitalfields weavers. Instead, we see arising a permanent 
machinery, designated the " Union/' for the representation, 
before the justices, of both masters and men, upon whose 
evidence the complicated lists of piecework rates are period- ; 
ically settled. Clearly the Parliaments which passed the 
Spitalfields Acts of 1765 and 1773 had no conception of the 
political philosophy of Adam Smith, whose Wealth of 
Nations, afterwards to be accepted as the English gospel 
of freedom of contract and " natural liberty," was pub- 
lished in 1776. At the same time, so exceptional had such 
acts become, that when Adam Smith's masterpiece came 
into the hands of the statesmen of the time, it must have 
seemed not so much a novel view of industrial economics as 
the explicit generalisation of practical conclusions to which 
experience had already repeatedly driven them. 

Towards the end of the century the governing classes, 
who had found in the new industrial policy a source of 
enormous pecuniary profit, eagerly seized on the new 
economic theory as an intellectual and moral justification * 
of that policy. The abandonment of the operatives by the 
law, previously resorted to under pressure of circumstances, 
and, as we gather, not without some remorse, was now 
carried out on principle, with unflinching determination. ' 

1 Act 13 Geo. III. c. 68 ; see A Short Historical Account of the Silk 
Manufacture in England, by Samuel Sholl, 1811 

2 Ibid. p. 4. 

56 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

When the handloom-weavers, earning little more than a 
third of the livelihood they had gained ten years beiore, 
and unable to realise that the factory system would be 
deliberately allowed to ruin them, made themselves heard 
in the House of Commons in 1808, a Committee reported 
against their proposal to fix a minimum rate of wages on 
the ground that it was " wholly inadmissible in principle, 
incapable of being reduced to practice by any means which 
can possibly be devised, and, if practicable, would be pro- 
ductive of the most fatal consequences " ; and " that the 
proposition relative to the limiting the number of apprentices 
is also entirely inadmissible, and would, if adopted by the 
House, be attended with the greatest injustice to the manu- 
facturer as well as to the labourer." 1 Here we have laisser- 
faire fully established in Parliament as an authoritative 
industrial doctrine of political economy, able to overcome 
the great bulk of the evidence given before this Committee, 
which was decidedly in favour of the minimum wage. The 
House of Commons had no lack of opportunities for educat- 
ing itself on the question. The special misery caused by 
bad harvests and the prolonged war between 1793 and 
1815 2 brought a rush of appeals, especially from the newly 
established associations of cotton operatives. In the early 
years of the present century petition after petition poured 
in from Lancashire and Glasgow, showing that the rates for 
weaving had steadily declined, and reiterating the old 
demands for a legally fixed scale of piecework rates and the 
limitation of apprentices. In 1795, and again in 1800, and 
once more in 1808, Bills fixing a minimum rate were intro- 
duced into the House of Commons, sometimes meeting with 
considerable favour. The report of the Committee of 1808, 
which took voluminous evidence on the subject, has already 
been quoted., Petitions from the calico-printers for a legal 

1 Reports on Petitions oj Cotton Weavers, i8og and 1811. 

8 " The period between 1795 and 1815 was characterised by dearths 
which on several occasions became well-nigh famines " (Thorold Rogers, 
History of Agriculture and Prices, vol. i. p. 692). 

The Appeal to the Law 57 

limitation of the number of apprentices, although warmly 
supported by the Select Committee to which they were re- 
ferred, met with the same fate. Sheridan, indeed, was not 
convinced, and brought in a Bill proposing, among other 
things, to limit the number of apprentices. But Sir Robert 
Peel (the elder), whose own factories swarmed with boys, 
opposed it in the name of industrial freedom, and carried 
the House of Commons with him. 1 

Meanwhile the despairing operatives, baffled in their 
attempts to procure fresh legislation, turned for aid to the 
existing law. Unrepealed statutes still enabled the justices 
in some trades to fix the rate of wages, limited in others 
the number of apprentices ; in others, again, prohibited 
certain kinds of machinery, and forbade any but apprenticed 
men to exercise the trade. So completely had these statutes 
fallen into disuse that their very existence was in many 
instances unknown to the artisans. The West of England 
weavers, however, combined with those of Yorkshire in 
1802 to employ an attorney, who took proceedings against 
employers for infringing the old laws. The result was that 
Parliament hastily passed an Act suspending these statutes, 
in order to put a stop to the prosecutions. 2 " At a numerous 
meeting of the cordwainers of the City of New Sarum in 
1784," says an old circular that we have seen, " it was 
unanimously resolved . . . that a subscription be entered 
into for putting the law in force against infringements on 
the Trade," but apparently without result. 3 The Edinburgh 

1 Minutes of Evidence and Report of the Committee on the Petition of the 
Journeymen Calico-printers, July 4, 1804, July 17, 1806. See also Sheridan's 
speech reported in Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, vol. ix. pp. 534-8. 

2 43 Geo. III. c. 136, continued in successive years until the definite 
repeal, in 1 809, of most of the laws regulating the woollen manufacture by 
49 Geo. III. c. 109 ; see Cunningham, 1903, vol. ii. p. 659. 

8 It was reprinted in the I2ist Quarterly Report of the Amalgamated 
Society of Boot and Shoemakers. The proceedings were taken by the 
Friendly Society of Cordwainers of England, " instituted the i5th of 
November 1784." Particulars of the London Bootmakers' Society, which 
was in correspondence with seventy or eighty provincial societies, are 
given in A Digest of the Evidence before the Committee on Artizans and 
Machinery, by George White, 1824, p. 97. 

58 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

compositors were more successful ; on being refused an 
advance of wages, to correspond with the rise in the cost of 
living, they presented, February 28, 1804, a memorial to 
the Court of Session, and obtained the celebrated " Inter- 
locutor " of 1805, which fixed a scale of piecework prices 
for the Edinburgh printing trade. 1 But the chief event of 
this campaign for the enforcement of the old laws began in 
Glasgow. The cotton-weavers of that city, after four or 
five years of Parliamentary agitation for additional legisla- 
tion, resorted to the law empowering the justices to fix the 
rates of wages. After an unsuccessful attempt to fix a 
standard rate by agreement with a committee of employers, 
the men's association which now extended throughout the 
whole of the cotton-weaving districts in the United King- 
dom commenced legal proceedings at the Lanarkshire 
Quarter Sessions. The employers in 1812 disputed the 
competence of the magistrates, and appealed to the Court 
of Sessions at Edinburgh. The Court held that the magis- 
trates were competent to fix a scale of wages, and a table 
of piecework rates was accordingly drawn up. The em- 
ployers immediately withdrew from the proceedings ; but 
the operatives were nevertheless compelled, at great ex- 
pense, to produce witnesses to testify to every one of the 
numerous rates proposed. After one hundred and thirty 
witnesses had been heard, the magistrates at length declared 
the rates to be reasonable, but made no actual order en- 
forcing them. The employers, with few exceptions, refused 
to accept the table, which it had cost the operatives 3000 
to obtain. The result was the most extensive strike the 
trade has ever known. From Carlisle to Aberdeen every 
loom stopped, forty thousand weavers ceasing work almost 
simultaneously. After three weeks' strike the employers 

1 Professor Foxwell kindly placed at our disposal a unique series of 
pamphlets relating to these proceedings, which are now in the Goldsmiths 
Company's Library at the University of London, including the Memorials 
of the journeymen and the employers, the Report in the Process by Robert 
Bell, and the Scale of Prices as settled by the Court. A full account of the 
proceedings is given in the Scottish Typographical Circular, June 1858. 

" Illegal Men " 59 

were preparing to meet the operatives, when the whole 
Strike Committee was suddenly arrested by the police, and 
held to bail under the common law for the crime of com- 
bination, of which the authorities, in that revolutionary 
period, were very jealous on purely political grounds. The 
five leaders were sentenced to terms of imprisonment vary- 
ing from four to eighteen months ; and this blow broke up 
the combination, defeated the strike, and put an end to 
the struggles of the operatives against the progressive 
degradation of their wages. 1 

The London artisans, though they were not put down 
by prosecution and imprisonment, met with no greater 
success than their Glasgow brethren. Between 1810 and 
1812 a number of trade societies combined to engage the 
services of a solicitor, who prosecuted masters for employing 
" illegal men," that is to say, men who had not by apprentice- 
ship gained a right to follow the trade. The original " case " 
which the journeymen curriers submitted to counsel in 
1810 (fee two guineas), with a view to putting in force the 
Statute of Apprentices, was in our possession, together 
with the somewhat hesitating opinion of the legal adviser. 2 
n a few cases proceedings were even taken against employers 
Dr having set up in trades to which they had not themselves 
5rved their time. Convictions were obtained in some 
istances ; but no costs were allowed to the prosecutors, 
rho were, on the other hand, condemned to pay heavy 
osts when they failed. Lord Ellenborough, moreover, held 
n appeal that new trades, such as those of engineer and '- 
)ckmaker, were not included within the Elizabethan Act. Jv 

n 1811 certain journeymen millers of Kent petitioned the $ 
stices to fix a rate of wages under the Elizabethan Act. 
Vhen the justices refused to hear the petition a writ of 

1 See, for these proceedings, the two Reports of the Committee on the 
^etitions of the Cotton Weavers, April 12, 1808, and March 29, 1809; and 
ichmond's evidence before the Committee on Artisans and Machinery, 
824, Second Report, pp. 59-64. 

* It is now in the British Library of Political Science at the London 
chool of Economics. 


60 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

mandamus was applied for. Lord Ellenborough granted 
the writ to compel them to hear the petition, but said they 
were to exercise their own discretion as to whether they 
would fix any rate. The justices, on this hint, declined to 
fix the wages. 1 It soon became apparent that legal pro- 
ceedings under these obsolete statutes were, in face of the 
adverse bias of the courts, as futile as they were costly. 
There was nothing for it then but either to abandon the 
line of attack or to petition Parliament to make effective 
the still unrepealed laws. This they accordingly did, with 
the unexpected result that the " pernicious " law empowering 
justices to fix wages was in 1813 peremptorily repealed. 2 

The law thus swept away was but one section of the' 
great Elizabethan statute, and its repeal left the other 
clauses untouched. A Select Committee had already, 
in 1811, reported that " no interference of the legislature 
with the freedom of trade, or with the perfect liberty of 
every individual to dispose of his time and of his labour 
in the way and on the terms which he may judge most 
conducive to his own interest, can take place without 
violating general principles of the first importance to the 
prosperity and happiness of the community ; without 
establishing the most pernicious precedent, or even without 
aggravating, after a very short time, the pressure of the 
general distress, and imposing obstacles against that distress 
being ever removed." The repeal of the wages clauses 
of the statute made this emphatic declaration of the new 
doctrine law as far as the fixing of wages was concerned; 
but there remained the apprenticeship clauses. Petitions 
for the enforcement of these, and their extension to the new 
trades, kept pouring in. They were finally referred to a 
large and influential committee which included Canning, 
Huskisson, Sir Robert Peel, and Sir James Graham among 
its members. The witnesses examined were strongly in 

-, Kent, 14 East, 395 ; see F. D. Longe's Inquiry into 

the Law"5]^~Strtkg^,~TS^o~ pp. 10, n. 
2 53 Geo. III. c. 40 (1813). 

Repeal of the Statute 61 

avour of the retention of the laws, with amendments 
ringing them up to date. The chairman (George Rose) 
ras apparently converted to the view of the operatives 
y the evidence. The committee, which had undoubtedly 
>een appointed to formulate the complete abolition of the 
pprenticeship clauses, found itself unable to fulfil its virtual 
landate. Not venturing, in the teeth of the manufacturers 
nd economists, to recommend the House to comply with 
he operatives' demands, it got out of the difficulty by 
laking no recommendation at all. Hundreds of petitions 
i favour of the laws continued to pour in from all parts of 
he country, 300,000 signatures being for retention against 
ooo for repeal, masters often joining in the journeymen's 
rayer. A public meeting of the " Master Manufacturers and 
Tadesmen of the Cities of London and Westminster," 
t the Freemasons' Tavern, passed resolutions strongly 
upporting the amendment and enforcement of the existing 
iw. On the other hand, a committee on which the master 
ngineers Maudsley and Galloway were prominent members, ( 
rgued forcibly in favour of freedom and against " the * 
lonstrous and alarming but misguided association." In 
14 Mr. Serjeant Onslow, who had not served on the com- 
ttee of the previous session, introduced a Bill to repeal 
e whole apprenticeship law. The " Masters and Journey- 
in of Westminster " were heard by counsel against this 
iasure, but the House had made up its mind in favour of 
e manufacturers, and by the Act of 54 Geo. III. c. 96 swept 
ray the apprenticeship clauses of the statute, and with 
em practically the last remnant of that legislative pro- * 
;tion of the Standard of Life which survived from the 
ddle Ages. 1 The triumphant manufacturers presented 
rjeant Onslow with several pieces of plate for his champion- 
Lp of commercial liberty. 2 

1 The Spitalfields Acts, relating to the silkweavers, were, however, not 
>ealed until 1824 ; and the last sections of 5 Eliz. c. 4 were not formally 
>ealed until 1875. 

8 White's Digest of all the laws at present in existence respecting Mastert 
Workpeople, 1824, p. 59. Place wrote to Wakefield, January 2, 1814 : 

62 The Origins of Trade Unionism 

So thoroughly had the new doctrine by this time driven 
out the very recollection of the old ideals from the mind 
of the governing class that it was now the operatives who 
were regarded as innovators, and we are hardly surprised 
to find another committee gravely declaring that " the 
right of every man to employ the capital he inherits, or has 
acquired, according to his own discretion, without molesta- 
tion or obstruction, so long as he does not infringe on the 
rights or property of others, is one of those privileges which 
the free and happy constitution of this country has long 
accustomed every Briton to consider as his birthright." 1 
But it must be added that the governing class was by no 
means impartial in the application of its new doctrine. 
Mediaeval regulation acted not only in restriction of free 
competition in the labour market to the pecuniary loss of 
the employers, but also in restriction of free contract to 
the loss of the employees, who could only obtain the best 
terms for their labour by collective instead of individual 
bargaining. Consequently the operatives, if they had 
clearly understood the situation, would have been as anxious 

" The affair of Serjeant Onslow partly originated with me, but I had no 
suspicion it would be taken up and pushed as vigorously as it has been and 
is likely to be " (Life of Francis Place, by Prof. Graham Wallas, p. 159). 

The proceedings in this matter can be best traced in the House of 
Commons Journals for 1813 and 1814, vols. Ixviii. and Ixix. ; and in 
Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, vols. xxv. and xxvii. The master's 
case is given in a pamphlet, The Origin, Object, and Operation of the Appren- 
tice Laws, 1814, 26 pp., preserved in the Pamphleteer, vol. iii. The Resolu- 
tions of the Master Manufacturers and Tradesmen of the Cities of London and 
Westminster on the Statute j* Eliz. c. 4, 1814, 4 pp., gives the contrary view 
(B.M. 1882, d. 2). The contemporary argument for freedom is expressed 
in An Estimate of the Comparative Strength of Great Britain, by G. Chalmers, 
1810 ; see Cunningham, 1903, vol. ii. p. 660. The Nottingham Library 
possesses a unique copy of the Articles and General Regulations of a Society 
for obtaining Parliamentary Relief, and the Encouragement of Mechanics in 
the Improvement of Mechanism, printed at Nottingham in 1813. This 
appears to have been a federation of framework knitters' societies, and 
possibly others, for Parliamentary action, as well as trade protection ; and 
its establishment in 1813 was perhaps connected with the movement for 
the revival of the Apprenticeship Laws. 

1 Report of the Committee on the State of the Woollen Manufacture in 
England, July 4, 1806, p. 12. 

Repression 63 

to abolish the laws against combination as to maintain 
lose fixing wages and limiting apprenticeship ; just as 
le capitalists, better informed, were no less resolute in 
laintaining the anti-combination laws than in repealing 
le others. We shall presently see how slow the workers 
rere to realise this, in spite of the fact that the laws against 
ombinations of workmen were maintained in force, and 
ven increased in severity. Strikes, and any organised 
esistance to the employers' demands, were put down with 
high hand. The first twenty years of the nineteenth 
entury witnessed a legal persecution of Trade Unionists as 
ebels and revolutionists. This persecution, thwarting the 
ealthy growth of the Unions, and driving their members 
ito violence and sedition, but finally leading to the repeal 
: the Combination Laws and the birth of the modern Trade 
Jhion Movement, will be the subject of the next chapter. 



THE traditional history of the Trade Union Movement 
represents the period prior to 1824 as one of unmitigated 
persecution and continuous repression. Every Union that 
can nowadays claim an existence of over a century pos- 
sesses a romantic legend of its early years. The midnight 
meeting of patriots in the corner of a field, the buried box 
of records, the secret oath, the terms of imprisonment of 
the leading officials all these are in the sagas of the older 
Unions, and form materiaj out of which, in an age untroubled 
by historical criticism, a semi-mythical origin might easily 
have been created. That the legend is not without a basis 
of fact, we shall see in tracing the actual effect upon the Trade 
Union Movement of the legal prohibitions of combinations 
of wage-earners which prevailed throughout the United 
Kingdom up to 1824. But we shall find that some com- 
binations of journeymen were at all times recognised by the 
law, that many others were only spasmodically interfered 
with, and that the utmost rigour of the Combination Laws 
was not felt until the far-reaching change of policy marked 
'by the severe Acts of 1799-1800, which applied to all indus- 
tries whatsoever. This will lead us naturally to the story 
of the repeal of the whole series of Combination Laws in 
1824-5, the most impressive event in the early history of 
the movement. 

6 4 

The Society to enforce the Law 65 

There is a clear distinction at any rate, as regards 
England between the various statutes which forbade com- 
bination prior to the end of the eighteenth century, and the 
general Combination Acts of 1799-1800. In the numerous 
earlier Acts recited anci .repealed in 1824 the prohibition of 
combination was in all cases incidental to the regulation of 
the industry. It was assumed to be the business of Parlia- 
ment and the law courts to regulate the conditions of labour ; 
and combinations could, no more than individuals, be per- 
mitted to interfere in disputes for which a legal remedy was 
provided. The object primarily aimed at by the statutes 
was not the prohibition of combinations, but the fixing of 
wages, the prevention of embezzlement or damage, the 
enforcement of the contract of service or the proper arrange- 
ments for apprenticeship. And although combinations to 
interfere with these statutory aims were obviously illegal, 
and were usually expressly prohibited, it was an incidental 
result that combinations formed to promote the objects of 
the legislation, however objectionable they might be to 
employers, were apparently not regarded as unlawful. 1 

Thus one of the earliest types of combination among 
journeymen the society to enforce the law seems always 
to have been tacitly accepted as permissible. Although it 
is probable that such associations came technically within 
the definitions of combination and conspiracy, whether 
under the common law or the early statutes, we know of 
no case in which they were indicted as illegal. We have 
already described, for instance, how, in 1726, the woollen 
weavers of Wiltshire and Somersetshire openly combined 
to present a petition to the King in Council against their 
masters, the broad clothiers. The Privy Council, far from 
deeming the action of the weavers illegal, considered and 
dealt with their complaint. And when the employers per- 
sisted in disobeying the law, we have seen how, in 1756, the 

1 An elaborate account of this legislation will be found in Labour 
Legislation, Labour Movements, and Labour Leaders, by G. Howell, 1902, 
pp. 21-42. 


66 The Struggle for Existence 

Fraternity of Woollen Clothweavers petitioned the House 
of Commons to make more effectual the power of the justices 
to fix wages, and obtained a new Act of Parliament in accord- 
ance with their desires. The almost perpetual combinations 
of the framework knitters between 1710 and 1800 were 
never made the subject of legal proceedings. The com- 
binations of the London silkweavers obtained a virtual 
sanction by the Spitalfields Acts, under which the delegates 
of the workmen's organisations regularly appeared before 
the justices, who fixed and revised the piecework prices. 
Even in 1808, after the stringency of the law against com- 
binations had been greatly increased, the Glasgow and Lan- 
cashire cottonweavers were permitted openly to combine for 
the purpose of seeking a legal fixing of wages, with the 
results already described. Nor was it only the combina- 
1 tion to obtain a legally fixed rate of wages that was left 
unmolested by the law. Combinations to put in force the 
sections of the Statute of Apprentices (5 Eliz. c. 4), or 
other prohibitions of the employment of " illegal workmen," 
occurred at intervals down to 1813. In 1749 a club of 
journeymen painters of the City of London proceeded against 
a master painter for employing a non-freeman ; and the 
proceedings led, in 1750, to a conference of thirty journey- 
men and thirty masters with the City Corporation, at which 
the regulations were altered. 1 No one seems to have ques- 
tioned the legality of the 1811-13 outburst of combinations 
to prosecute masters who had not served an apprenticeship, 
or who were employing unapprenticed workmen. One 
reason, doubtless, for the immunity of combinations to, 
enforce the law was that they included employers and| 
sympathisers of all ranks. For instance, the combinations 
in 1811-13 to enforce the apprenticeship laws comprised 
both masters and journeymen, who were equally aggrieved 

1 Act of Common Council, November 22, 1750 : Hughson's London, 
p. 422. There is evidence of at least one other club of painters in London 
dating back to the eighteenth century, the " Original Society of Painters 
and Glaziers " existing in 1779, which afterwards became the St. Martin's 
Society of Painters and Glaziers (Beehive, October 24, 1863). 

The Law of Conspiracy 67 

by the competition of the new capitalist and his " hire- 
lings." 1 The Yorkshire Clothiers' Community, or " Brief 
Institution," to which reference has already been made, 
included, in some of its ramifications, the " domestic " 
master manufacturers, who fought side by side with the 
journeymen against the new factory system. 

On the other hand, combinations of journeymen to 
^regulate for themselves their -wages and conditions of 
^employment stood, from the first, on a different footing. 
:The common law doctrine of the illegality of proceedings 
" in restraint of trade," as subsequently interpreted by the 
judges, of itself made illegal all combinations whatsoever 
,of journeymen to regulate the conditions of their work. ' 
Moreover, with the regulation by law of wages and the 
conditions of employment, any combination to resist the 
order of the justices on these matters was obviously" of the 
nature of rebellion, and was, in fact, put down like any 
individual disobedience of the law. Nor was express statute 
law against combinations wanting. The statute of 1305, 
entitled, " Who be Conspirators and who be Champertors " 
(33 Edw. I. st. 2), was in 1818 held to apply to a combina- 
tion to raise wages among cotton-spinners, whose leaders 
were sentenced to two years' imprisonment under this 
Act. The " Bill of Conspiracies of Victuallers and Crafts- 
men " of 1549 ( 2 anc * 3 Edw. VI. c. 15), though aimed 
primarily at combinations to keep up the prices charged to 
consumers, clearly includes within its prohibitions any com- 
binations of journeymen craftsmen to keep up wages or 
reduce hours. 

It is some proof of the novelty of the workmen's com- 
pinations in the early part of the eighteenth century, that 
neither the employers nor the authorities thought at first 
resorting to the very sufficient powers of the existing law 
igainst them. When, in 1720, the master tailors of London 

1 This term was used to denote men who had not served a legal appren- 
iceship. See " Rules and Regulations of the Journeymen Weavers," 
eprinted in Appendix No. 10 to Report on Combination Laws, 1825. 

68 The Struggle for Existence 

found themselves confronted with an organised body of 
journeymen claiming to make a collective bargain, seriously 
" in restraint of trade/' they turned, not to the law courts, 
but to Parliament for protection, and obtained, as we have 
seen, the Act " for regulating the Journeymen Tailors within 
the bills of mortality " (7 Geo. I. st. I, c. 13, amended by 
8 Geo. III. c. 17). * Similarly, when the clothiers of the 
West of England began between 1717 and 1725 to be in- 
convenienced by the " riotous and tumultuous clubs and 
societies " of woolcombers and weavers, who made bye-laws 
and maintained a Standard Rate, 2 they did not put in force 
the existing law, but successfully petitioned Parliament for 
the Act " to prevent unlawful combinations of workmen) 
employed in the Woollen Manufactures " (12 Geo. I. c. 34).! 
Indeed, prior to the general Acts of 1799 and 1800 against 
all combinations of journeymen, Parliament was, from the| 
L beginning of the eighteenth century, perpetually enacting 
1 statutes forbidding combinations in particular trades. 3 

In the English statutes this prohibition of combination 

was, as we have seen, only a secondary feature, incidental 

to the main purpose of the law. The case is different with! 

\regard to the early Irish Acts, the terms of which point to 

a much sharper cleavage between masters and men, due] 

perhaps, to difference of religion and race. The very firs! 

statute against combinations which was passed by the Irislj 

I Parliament, the Act of 1729 (3 Geo. II. c. 14), contained nd 

provisions protecting the wage-earner, and prohibited com-j 

1 The case of R. v. the Journeymen Tailors of Cambridge in 1721 
(8 Mod. 10) is obscurely reported ; and it is uncertain under what law thtl 
men were convicted. See Wright's Law of Criminal Conspiracies anc 
Agreements, p. 53. 

1 See the petitions from Devonshire towns, House of Commons Journals! 
1717, vol. xviii. p. 715, which, with others in subsequent years, led to e 
Select Committee in 1726 (Journals, vol. xx. p. 648, March 31, 1726). 

* See, for instance, the Acts regulating the woollen industry, 12 Geo. I 1 
c. 34 (1725) ; against embezzlement or fraud by shoemakers, 9 Geo. I| 
c. 27 (1729) ; relating to hatters, 22 Geo. II. c. 27 (1749) ; to silkweavers 
17 Geo. III. c. 55 (1777) ; and to papermaking, 36 Geo. III. c. in (i795)| 
Whitbread declared in the House of Commons that there were in 1800 n<i 
fewer than forty such statutes. 

The Combination Act 69 

binations in all trades whatsoever. The Act of 1743 (17 
Geo. II. c. 8), called forth by the failure of the previous 
prohibition, equally confined itself to drastic penal measures, 
including the punishment of the keepers of the public-houses 
which were used for meetings. But in later years the 
English practice seems to have been followed ; for the laws 
of 1758 (31 Geo. II. c. 17), 1763 (3 Geo. III. 34, sec. 23), 
1771 (n and 12 Geo. III. c. 18, sec. 40, and c. 33), and 
1779 (19 and 20 Geo. III. c. 19, c. 24, and c. 36) provide for 
the fixing of wages, and contain other regulations of industry, 
amongst which the prohibition of combinations comes as a 
matter oi^course. 

^By the end of the century, at any rate, the common law, 
both in England and in Ireland, had been brought to the 
aid of the special statutes, and the judges were ruling that 
any conspiracy to do an act which they considered unlawful 
in a combination, even if not criminal in an individual, 
was against the common law. Soon the legislature followed 
suit. In 1799 the Act 39 Geo. III. c. 81 expressly penalised 
all combinations whatsoever. 

""""The grounds for this drastic measure appear to have 
been found in the marked increase of Trade Unionism among 
workers of various kinds. The operatives' combinations 
were regarded as being in the nature of mutiny against their 
employers and masters ; destructive of the " discipline ''neces- 
sary to the expansion of trade ; and interfering with the 
right of the employer to "do what he liked with his own." 
The immediate occasion was a petition from London 
engineering employers, complaining of an alarming strike 
of the millwrights. This led to a Bill suppressing combina- 
tion in the engineering trade, which was passed by the House 
of Commons, in spite of the protests of Sir Francis Burdett 
and Benjamin Hobhouse. The measure was, however, 
dropped in the House of Lords in favour of a more compre- 
lensive Bill, applicable to all trades, which Wilberforce had 

uggested. This was introduced on June 17, 1799, by William 

^tt himself, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who referred 

70 The Struggle for Existence 

to the alarming growth of combination, not merely in the 
Metropolis but also in the north of England. Subsequent 
stages of the Bill were moved by George Rose, another 
member of the Administration ; and the measure was 
hurried through all its stages in both Houses with great 
rapidity, receiving the Royal Assent only twenty-four days 
after its introduction into the House of Commons. There 
was therefore little opportunity for any effective demon- 
stration against its provisions, but the Journeymen Calico- 
printers' Society of London petitioned against the measure, 
and instructed counsel to put forward their objections. 
They represented that, although the Bill professed merely 
" to prevent unlawful combinations," it created " new crimes 
of so indefinite a nature that no one journeyman or workman 
will be safe in holding any conversation with another on 
the subject of his trade or employment." Only a few other 
petitions were presented, and, though Benjamin Hobhouse 
opposed it in the Commons and Lord Holland in the Lords, 
the Bill passed unaltered into law. 1 

But the struggle was not yet over. The employers were 

not satisfied with the 1799 Act ; and The Times announced 

in January 1800 that " one of the first Acts of the Imperial 

( Parliament [of the United Kingdom] will be for the preven- 

1 A Full and A ccurate Report of the Proceedings of the Petitioners, etc. 
By One of the Petitioners (London, January 1800, 19 pp.). A rare 
pamphlet in the Goldsmiths' Library at the University of London. " It 
is -remarkable, ' ' says Mr. Justice Stephen, " that in the parliamentary 
h&tory for I?QQ and 1800 there is no accountofjinVi debate" QirtrrESe~7tcts t 
nor are they referred to in the Annual Register for those ye&fs^~(IJ{ story 
of the Criminal Law, vol. iii. p. 208). That the measure excited some 
interest in the textile districts may be inferred from the publication at 
Leeds of a pamphlet entitled an Abstract of an Act to prevent Unlawful 
Combinations among Journeymen to raise Wages, etc. (Leeds, 1799), which 
is in the Manchester Public Library (P. 1735). Lord Holland's speeches 
against it are said to have been reprinted for distribution in Manchester 
and Liverpool (Lady Holland's Journal, vol. ii. p. 102). 

Mr. and Mrs. Hammond have now traced fairly full accounts of the 
proceedings, elucidating the scanty references in the Journals of the House 
of Commons and House of Lords for 1799-1800 by quotations from the 
Parliamentary Register, the Senator, The Times, London Chronicle, True 
Briton, and Morning Post. See The Town Labourer, 1917, ch. vii. pp 
111-42; also Cunningham, Growth, etc., 1903, pp. 732-7. 

The Act of 1800 71 

\ tion of conspiracies among journeymen tradesmen to raise 
\ their wages. All benefit clubs and societies are to be im- 
( mediately suppressed." 1 On the other hand, the trade 
(clubs in all parts of the country poured in petitions of 
protest ; and the Whig and Tory members for Liverpool, 
General Tarleton and Colonel Gascoyne, among whose 
constituents were the strongly combined shipwrights, who 
^were freemen and Parliamentary electors, united to bring 
?in an amending Bill. This was supported in a series of 
brilliant speeches by Sheridan, whose attempts to reduce 
to a minimum the mischief of the 1799 Act were strenuously 
resisted by Pitt and the Law Officers of the Crown. The 
petitions were considered by a Committee, which recom- 
mended certain amendments. Two justices were substi- 
tuted for one as the tribunal ; no justice engaged in the 
same trade as the defendant could act ; the qualifying 
words " wilfully and maliciously " were introduced in the 
description of the offences. A clause protecting trade 
friendly societies was proposed but eventually rejected. 
,' A particularly ^fcous feature of the 1799 Act, under which 
I defendants were required to give evidence against them- 
selves under severe penalties for refusal, was left unaltered. 
A series of interesting clauses providing for the reference of 
I wage disputes to arbitration copied from the contemporary 
Act relating to the cotton trade 2 aroused great opposition, 
as tending " to fix wages " and as involving the recognition 
of the Trade Union representative, but they were finally 
adopted ; without, so far as we are aware, ever being put 
in force. 3 

The general Combination Act of 1800 was not merely 
the codification of existing laws, or their extension from 

1 Times, January 7, 1800 ; Labour Legislation, Labour Movements, and 
Labour Leaders, by George Howell, 1902, p. 23. 

2 39 and 40 George III. c. 90 ; see Cunningham, 1903, p. 634. 

3 39 and 40 George III. c. 60 ; see, for all this, The Town Labourer, 
1760-1832, by J. L. and B. Hammond, 1917, ch. vii. A case in which 
an attempt to put the arbitration clauses in force was baulked by the 
employers was mentioned to the Committee on Artisans and Machinery, 
1824, p. 603. 

72 The Struggle for Existence 

particular trades to the whole field of industry. It repre- 
sented a new and momentous departure. Hitherto the 
central or local authority had acted as a court of appeal 
on all questions affecting the work and wages of the citizen. 
If the master and journeyman failed to agree as to what 
constituted a fair day's wage for a fair day's work, the 
higgling of the market was peremptorily superseded by the 
authoritative determination, presumably on grounds of 
social expediency, of the standard of remuneration. Prob- 
ably the actual fixing of wages by justices of the peace fell 
very rapidly into disuse as regards the majority of industries, 
although formal orders are found in the minutes of Quarter 
Sessions during the first quarter of the nineteenth century, 
and deep traces of the practice long survived in the cus- 

. tomary rates of hiring. Towards the end of the eighteenth 
century, at any rate, free bargaining between the capitalist 

j and his workmen became practically the sole method of 
fixing wages. Then it was that the gross injustice of pro- 
hibiting combinations of journeymen became apparent. 
" A single master," said Lord Jeffrey, " was at liberty at 
any time to turn off the whole of his workmen at once 
100 or 1000 in number if they would not accept of the 
wages he chose to offer. But it was made an offence for 
the whole of the workmen to leave that master at once if 

''he refused to give the wages they chose to require/' l What 
was even more oppressive in practice was the employers' 
use of the threat of prosecution to prevent even the begin- 
nings of resistance among the workmen to any reduction 
of wages or worsening of conditions. 

/ It is true that the law forbade combinations of employers 

' as well as combinations of journeymen. Even if it had 
been impartially carried out, there would still have remained 
the inequality due to the fact that, in the new system of 

. industry, a single employer was himself equivalent to a 

1 Combinations of Workmen : Substance of the Speech of Francis Jeffrey 
at the Dinner to Joseph Hume, M.P., at Edinburgh, November 18, 1825 
(Edinburgh, 1825). 

The Law's Unfairness 73 

very numerous combination. But the hand of justice was 
not impartial. The " tacit, but constant " combination 
of employers to depress wages, to which Adam Smith refers, 
could not be reached by the law. Nor was there any 
disposition on the part of the magistrates or the judges 
to find the masters guilty, even in cases of flagrant or 
avowed combination. No one prosecuted the master 
cutlers who, in 1814, openly formed the Sheffield Mercantile 
and Manufacturing Union, having for its main rule that no 
merchant or manufacturer should pay higher prices for 
any article of Sheffield make than were current in the pre- 
ceding year, with a penalty of 100 for each contravention 
of this illegal agreement. 1 . During the whdle epoch of 
repression, whilst thousands of journeymen suffered for 
the crime of combination, there is no case on record in which * 
an employer was punished for the same offence./ 

. To the ordinary politician a combination of employers 
and a combination of workmen seemed in no way com- 
parable. The former was, at most, an industrial misde- 
meanour : the latter was in all cases a political crime. ~ 
Under the shadow of the French Revolution, the English 
governing classes regarded all associations of the common 
people with the utmost alarmx In this general terror lest 


insubordination should develop into rebellion were merged 
both the capitalist's objection to high wages and the poli- 
tician's dislike of Democratic institutions. The Combination 
Laws, as Francis Place tells us, " were considered as abso- 
lutely necessary to prevent ruinous extortions of workmen, 
which, if not thus restrained, would destroy the whole of 
the Trade, Manufactures, Commerce, and Agriculture of 
the nation. . . . This led to the conclusion that the work- 
men were the most unprincipled of mankind. Hence the 
continued ill-will, suspicion, and in almost every possible 
way the bad conduct of workmen and their employers 
towards one another. So thoroughly was this false notion 
entertained that whenever men were prosecuted to con- 

1 Sheffield Iris, March 23, 1814. 

D 2 

74 The Struggle for Existence 

viction for having combined to regulate their wages or the 
hours of working, however heavy the sentence passed on 
them was, and however rigorously it was inflicted, not the 
slightest feeling of compassion was manifested by anybody 
for the unfortunate sufferers. Justice was entirely out of 
the question : they could seldom obtain a hearing before 
a magistrate, never without impatience or insult ; and 
never could they calculate on even an approximation to a 
rational conclusion. . . . Could an accurate account be 
given of proceedings, of hearings before magistrates, trials 
at sessions and in the Court of King's Bench, the gross 
injustice, the foul invective, and terrible punishments 
inflicted would not, after a few years have passed away, be 
credited on any but the best evidence." 1 

It must not, however, be supposed that every combina- 
tion was made the subject of prosecution, or that the Trade 
Union leader of the period passed his whole life in gaol. 
Owing to the extremely inefficient organisation of the 
English police, and the absence of any public^rosjcutor 
* a combination was usually let alone until some employer 
was sufficiently inconvenienced by its operations to be willing 
himself to set the law in motion. In many cases we find 
employers apparently accepting or conniving at their men's 
combinations. 2 The master printers in London not only 
recognised the very ancient institution of the " chapel," 
but evidently found it convenient, at any rate from 1785 
onwards, to receive and consider proposals from the journey- 
men as an organised body. In 1804 we even hear of a joint 
committee consisting of an equal number of masters and 
journeymen, authorised by their respective bodies to frame 
regulations for the future payment of labour, and resulting 
in the elaborate " scale " of 1805, signed by both masters 
and men. 3 The London coopers had a recognised organisa- 

1 Place MSS. 27798 7. The Act of 1800 was scathingly denounced 
by Cobbett in the Political Register, August 30, 1823. 

2 This is a constant subject of complaint by other employers. 

8 Introduction to the London Scale of Prices (in London Society of 
Compositors' volume). 

Unmolested Unions 75 

tion in 1813, in which year a list of prices was agreed upon 
by representatives of the masters and men. This list was 
revised in 1816 and 1819, without any one thinking of a 
prosecution. 1 The Trade Union was openly reformed in 
1821 as the Philanthropic Society of Coopers. The London 
brushmakers in 1805 had " A List of Prices agreed upon 
between the Masters and Journeymen/' which is still extant. 
The framework knitters, and also the tailors of the various 
villages in Nottinghamshire, were, from 1794 to 1810, in 
the habit of freely meeting together, both masters and men, 
" to consider of matters relative to the trade," the conferences 
being convened by public advertisement. 2 The minute 
books of the local Trade Union of the carpenters of Preston 
for the years 1807 to 1824 chronicle an apparently uncon- 
cealed and unmolested existence, in correspondence with 
other carpenters' societies throughout Lancashire. The 
accounts contain no items for the expense of defending their 
officers against prosecutions, whereas there are several 
payments for advertisements and public meetings, and, be 
it added, a very large expenditure in beer. And there is a 
lively tradition among the aged block printers of Glasgow 
that, in their fathers' time, when their very active Trade 
Union exacted a fee of seven guineas from each new appren- 
tice, this money was always straightway drunk by the men 
of the print-field, the employer taking his seat at the head 
of the t^ble, and no work being done by any one until 
the fund was exhausted. The calico-printers' organisation 
appears, at the early part of the nineteenth century, to 
have been one of the strongest and most complete of the 
Unions. In an impressive pamphlet of 1815 the men are 
thus appealed to by the employers : " We have by turns 
conceded what we ought all manfully to have resisted, 
and you, elated with success, have been led on from one 
extravagant demand to another, till the burden is become 
too intolerable to be borne. You fix the number of our 

1 House of Commons Return, No. 135, of 1834. 
8 Advertisements in Nottingham Journal, 1794-181 

76 The Struggle for Existence 

apprentices, and oftentimes even the number of our journey- 
men. You dismiss certain proportions of our hands, and 
will not allow others to come in their stead. You stop all 
Surface Machines, and go the length even to destroy the 
rollers before our face. You restrict the Cylinder Machine, 
and even dictate the kind of pattern it is to print. You 
refuse, on urgent occasions, to work by candlelight, and. 
even compel our apprentices to do the same. You dismiss 
our, overlookers when they don't suit you ; and force 
obnoxious servants into our employ. Lastly, you set all 
subordination and good order at defiance, and instead of 
showing deference and respect to your employers, treat 
them with personal insult and contempt." x Notwith- 
standing all this, no systematic attempt appears to have 
been made to put down the calico-printers' combination, 
and only one or two isolated prosecutions can be traced. 
In Dublin, too, the cabinetmakers in the early part of the 
present century were combined in a strong union called 
the Samaritan Society, exclusively for trade purposes ; 
" but though illegal, the employers do not seem to have 
looked upon it with any great aversion ; and when on one 
occasion the chief constable had the men attending a meeting 
arrested, the employers came forward to bail them. Indeed, 
they professed that their object, though primarily to defend 
their own interests against the masters, was also to defend 
the interests of the masters against unprincipled journey- 
men. Many of the masters on receiving the bill of a 
journeyman were in the habit of sending it to the trades' 
society committee to be taxed, after which the word Com- 
mittee was stamped upon it. One case was mentioned, 
when between two and three pounds were knocked off 
a bill of about eight pounds by the trade committee." 2 

1 Considerations addressed to the journeymen Calico- Printers by one of 
their Masters (Manchester, 1815) ; see also the Report of House of 
Commons Committee on the Case of the Calico-Printers, 1806. 

8 Evidence before Committee on Artisans and Machinery, 1824, as 
summarised in the Report on Trade Societies (1860) of the Social Science 
Association : see also A Digest of the Evidence before the Committee on 
Artizans and Machinery, by George White, 1824. 

Laws not enforced 


And both in London and Edinburgh the journeymen openly 
published, without fear of prosecution, elaborate printed 
lists of piecework prices, compiled sometimes by a committee 
of the men's Trade Union, sometimes by a joint committee 
of employers and employed. 1 "The London Cabinet- 
makers' Union Book of Prices/' of which editions were 
published in 1811 and 1824, was a costly and elaborate 
work, with many plates, published " by a Committee of 
Masters and Journeymen ... to prevent those litigations 
which have too frequently existed in the trade." Various 
supplements and " index keys " to this work were published ; 
and other similar lists exist. So lax was the administration 
'of the law that George White, the energetic clerk to Hume's 
Committee, asserted that the Act of 1800 had " been in 
general a dead letter upon those artisans upon whom it 
>was intended to have an effect namely, the shoemakers, 
printers, papermakers, shipbuilders, tailors, etc., who have 
had their regular societies and houses of call, as though no 
such Act was in existence ; and in fact it would be almost 
impossible for many of those trades to be carried on without 
such societies, who are in general sick and travelling relief 
societies ; and the roads and parishes would be much pestered 
with these travelling trades, who travel from want of employ- 
ment, were it not for their societies who relieve what they 
call tramps." z 

But although clubs of journeymen might be allowed to 
take, like the London bookbinders, " a social pint of 
porter together," and even, in times of industrial peace, to 
provide for their tramps and perform all the functions of a 
Trade Union, the employers had always the power of 

1 The Edinburgh Book of Prices for Manufacturing Cabinet Work 
(Edinburgh, 1805, 126 pp.). " as mutually agreed upon by the Masters 
and Journeymen." In 1825 the journeymen prepared a Supplement, 
which, after the masters had concurred in it, was published by the men 
(Edinburgh, 1825). Both these are in the Goldsmiths' Library at the 
University of London. 

* A Few Remarks on the State of the Laws at present in Existence for regu- 
lating Masters and Workpeople, 1823 (142 pp.), p. 84. Anonymous, but 
evidently by George White and Gravener Henson. 

78 The Struggle for Existence 

- meeting any demands by a prosecution. Even those trades 
in which we have discovered evidence of the unmolested 
existence of combinations furnish examples of the rigorous 
application of the law. In 1819 we read of numerous 
prosecutions of cabinetmakers, hatters, ironfounders, and 
other journeymen, nominally for leaving their work un- 
finished, but really for the crime of combination. 1 In 
1798 five journeymen printers were indicted at the Old 
Bailey for conspiracy. The employers had sent for the 
men's leaders to discuss their proposals, when, as it was 
complained, " the five defendants came, clothed as delegates, 
representing themselves as the head of a Parliament as we 
may call it." The men were in fact members of a trade 
friendly society of pressmen " held at the Crown, near St. 
Dunstan's Church, Fleet Street," which, as the prosecuting 
counsel declared, " from its appearance certainly bore no 
reproachable mark upon it. It was called a friendly society, 
but by means of some wicked men among them this society 
degenerated into a most abominable meeting for the purpose 
of a conspiracy ; those of the trade who did not join their 
society were summoned, and even the apprentices, and were 
told unless they conformed to the practices of these journey- 
men, when they came out of their times they should not 
be employed." Notwithstanding the fact that the employers 
had themselves recognised and negotiated with the society, 
the Recorder sentenced all the . defendants to two years' 
imprisonment. 2 

Twelve years later it was the brutality of another prose- 
cution of the compositors that impressed Francis Place with 

I the necessity of an alteration in the law. " The cruel 
persecutions," he writes, " of the Journeymen Printers 
employed in The Times newspaper in 1810 were eajried to 
an almost incredible extent. The judge who tried and 

1 See, for instance, The Times from iyth to 25th of June 1819. 

2 An Account of the Rise and Progress of the Dispute between the Masters 
and Journeymen Printers exemplified in the Trial at large, with Remarks 
Thereon, 1799, a rare pamphlet, in the Goldsmiths' Library at the Univer- 
sity of London. 

"Bloody Black Jack" 79 

sentenced some of them was the Common Sergeant of 
London, Sir John Sylvester, commonly known by the cogno- 
men of ' Bloody Black Jack.' ... No judge took more 
pains than did this judge on the unfortunate printers, to 
make it appear that their offence was one of great enormity, 
to beat down and alarm the really respectable men who 
had fallen into his clutches, and on whom he inflicted 
scandalously severe sentences." 1 Nor did prosecution 
always depend on the caprice of an employer. In Decem- 
ber 1817 the Bolton constables, accidentally getting to 
know that ten delegates of the calico-printers from the 
-various districts of the kingdom were to meet on New 
Year's Day, arranged to arrest the whole body and seize 
iall their papers. The ten delegates suffered three months' 
imprisonment, although no dispute with their employers 
was in progress. 2 But the main use of the law to the 
employers was to checkmate strikes, and ward off demands 
for better conditions of labour. Already^ in- i-7&6 r 4he~ law 
of conspiracy had been strained to convict, and punish with 
two years' imprisonment,, the .. five London bookbinders 
who were leadnSglT strike to reduce hours from twelve to 
eleven. 8 When, at the Aberdeen Master Tailors' Gild, in 
1797, " it was represented to the trade that their journeymen 
had entered into an illegal combination for the purpose of 
raising their wages," the masters unanimously " agreed 
not to give any additional wages to their servants," and 
backed up this resolution of their own combination by 
getting twelve journeymen prosecuted and fined for the 
crime of combining. 4 In 1799 the success of the London 
shoemakers in picketing obnoxious employers led to the 
prosecution of two of them, which was made the means of 
inducing the men to consent to dissolve their society, then 

1 Place MSS. 27798 8 ; Times, November 9, 1810. 

2 Report in Manchester Exchange Herald, preserved in Place MSS. 

8 Bookfinishers' Friendly Circular, 1845-51, pp. 5, 21. 
4 Bain's Merchant and Craft Gilds of Aberdeen, p. 261. An earlier 
combination of 1768 is also mentioned. 


The Struggle for Existence 

seven years old, and return to work at once. 1 Two other 
shoemakers of York were convicted in the same year for 
the crime of " combining to raise the price of their labour in 
making shoes, and refusing to make shoes under a certain 
price/' and counsel said that " in every great town in the 
North combinations of this sort existed." 2 The coach- 
makers' strike of 1819 was similarly stopped, and the 
" Benevolent Society of Coachmakers " broken up by the 
conviction of the general secretary and twenty other 
members, who were, upon this condition, released on their 
own recognisances. 3 In 1819 some calico-engravers in the 
service of a Manchester firm protested against the undue 
multiplication of apprentices by their employers, and 
enforced their protest by declining to work. For this 
" conspiracy " they were fined and imprisoned. 4 And 
though the master cutlers were allowed, with impunity, to 
subscribe to the Sheffield Mercantile and Manufacturing 
Union, which fixed the rates of wages, and brought pressure 
to bear on recalcitrant employers, the* numerous trade clubs 
of the operatives were not left unmolested. In 1816 seven 
scissor-grinders were sentenced to three months' imprison- 
ment for belonging to what they called the " Misfortune 
Club," which paid out-of-work benefit, and sought to main- 
tain the customary rates. 5 

1 R. v. Hammond and Webb, 2 Esp. 719 ; see the Morning Chronicle 
report, preserved in Place MSS. 27799 29. 

2 Star, November 26, 1799. 

8 R. v. Connell and others, Times, July 10, 1819. 

4 R. v. Ferguson and Edge, 2 St. 489. 

5 Sheffield Iris, December 17, 1816. The men's clubs often existed 
under the cloak of friendly societies. In the overseers' return of sick 
clubs, made to Parliament in 1815, the following trade friendly societies 
are included, many of these, at any rate, being essentially Trade Unions : 

Tailors, with 360 members, and ^740 





United Silversmiths, 





Sheffield Iris, 1851. 

Legal Persecution 81 

But it was in the new textile industries that the weight J, 
of the Combination Laws was chiefly felt. White and 
Henson describe the Act of 1800 as being in these trades 
" a tremendous millstone round the neck of the local 
artisan, which has depressed and debased him to the earth : 
every act which he has attempted, every measure that he 
has devised to keep up or raise his wages, he has been 
told was illegal : the whole force of the civil power and 
influence of the district has been exerted against him because 
he was acting illegally : the magistrates, acting, as they 
believed, in unison with the views of the legislature, to 
check and keep down wages and combination, regarded, in 
almost every instance, every attempt on the part of the 
artisan to ameliorate his situation or support his station in 
society as a species of sedition and resistance of the Govern- 
ment : every committee or active man among them was 
regarded as a turbulent, dangerous instigator, whom it was 
necessary to watch and crush if possible." 1 To cite one 
only of the instances, it was given in evidence before Hume's 
Committee that in 1818 certain Bolt on millowners suggested 
to the operative weavers that they should concert together 
to leave the employment of those who paid below the current 
rate. Acting on this hint a meeting of forty delegates took 
place, at which it was resolved to ask for the advance agreed 
to by the good employers. A fortnight later the president 
and the two secretaries were arrested, convicted of conspiracy, 
and imprisoned for one and two years respectively, although 
.their employers gave evidence on the prisoners' behalf to 
ithe effect that they had themselves requested the men to 
.attend the meeting, and had approved the resolutions 
passed. 2 In the following year fifteen cotton-spinners of 
Manchester, who had met " to receive contributions to 
bury their dead," under " Articles " sanctioned by Quarter 
Sessions in 1795, were seized in the committee-room by the 
police, and committed to trial for conspiracy, bail being 

1 A Few Remarks, etc., p. 86. 
8 Committee on Artisans and Machinery, 1824, p. 395. 

82 The Struggle for Existence 

refused. After three or four months' imprisonment they 
were brought to trial, the whole local bar seven in number 
being briefed against them. Collections were made in 
London and elsewhere (including the town of Lynn in 
Norfolk) for their defence. The enrolment of their club as 
a friendly society availed little. It was urged in court that 
" all societies, whether benefit societies or otherwise, were 

' only cloaks for the people of England to conspire against 
the State/' and most of the defendants were sentenced to 

1 varying terms of imprisonment. 1 

But the Scottish Weaver's' Strike of 1812, described in 
the preceding chapter, is the most striking case of all. In 
the previous year certain cotton-spinners had been con- 
victed of combination and imprisoned, the judge observing 
that there was a clear remedy in law, as the magistrates had 
full power and authority to fix rates of wages or settle 
disputes. In 1812 many of the employers refused to 
accept the rates which the justices had declared as fair for 
weaving ; and all the weavers at the forty thousand looms 
between Aberdeen and Carlisle struck to enforce the justices' 
rates. The employers had already made overtures through 
the sheriff of the county for a satisfactory settlement when 
the Government arrested the central committee of five, who 
were directing the proceedings. These men were sentenced 
to periods of imprisonment varying from four to eighteen 
months ; the strike failed, and the association broke up. 2 
The student of the newspapers between 1800 and 1824 will 
find abundant record of judicial barbarities, of which the 
cases cited above may be taken as samples. No statistics 
exist as to the frequency of the prosecutions or the severity 
of the sentences ; but it is easy to understand, from such 
reports as are available, the sullen resentment which the 
working suffered under these laws. Their repeal was 

1 See the Gorgon for January and February 1819. 

2 Second Report of Committee on Artisans and Machinery, 1824, p. 62. 
For other cases, see The Town Labourer, by J. L. and B. Hammond, 1917, 
Pp. 130-33 

A Labour Aristocracy 83 

a necessary preliminary to the growth among the most 
oppressed sections of the workers of any real power of pro- 
tecting themselves, by Trade Union effort, against the 
degradation of their Standard of Life. 

The failure of the Combination Laws to suppress the / 
somewhat dictatorial Trade Unionism of the skilled handi- 
craftsmen, and their efficacy in preventing the growth of 
permanent Unions among other sections of the workers, is 
explained by class distinctions, now passed away or greatly 
modified, which prevailed at the beginning of the present 
century. To-day, when we speak of " the aristocracy of 
labour" we include under that heading the organised 
miners and factory operatives of the North on the same 
superior footing as the skilled handicraftsman. In 1800 
they were at opposite extremes of the social scale in the 
wage-earning class, the weaver and the miner being then 
further removed from the handicraftsman than the docker 
or general labourer is from the Lancashire cotton-spinner 
or Northumberland hewer of to-day. The skilled artisans 
formed, at any rate in London, an intermediate class 
between the shopkeeper and the great mass of unorganised 
labourers or operatives in the new machine industries. 
The substantial fees demanded all through the eighteenth 
century for apprenticeship to the " crafts " had secured to 
the members and their eldest sons a virtual monopoly. 1 
Even after the repeal of the laws requiring a formal appren- 
ticeship some time had to elapse before the supply of this 
class of handicraftsmen overtook the growing demand. \ 
Thus we gather from the surviving records that these trades , . 
have never been more completely organised in London than 
between 1800 and 1820. 2 We find the London hatters, 

1 Throughout the century it seems to have been customary in most 
handicrafts for the artisan to be allowed the privilege of apprenticing one 
son, usually the eldest, free of charge. For other boys, especially for the 
sons of parents not belonging to the trade, a fee of ^5 to 20 was exacted 
by the employer. The secretary of the Old Amicable Society of Wool- 
staplers thirty years ago informed, us that, as his brother had already 
entered the trade, his father had to pay ^100 for his indentures. 

8 To take, for instance, the cabinetmakers and millwrights. When 

84 The Struggle for Existence 

coopers, curriers, compositors, millwrights, and shipwrights 

\ maintaining earnings which, upon their own showing, 

amounted to the comparatively large sum of thirty to fifty 

shillings per week. At the same period the Lancashire 

weaver or the Leicester hosier, in full competition with 

steam-power and its accompaniment of female and child 

labour, could, even when fully employed, earn barely ten 

^ shillings. We see this difference in the Standard of Life 

i.. reflected in the characters of the combinations formed by 

Ej the two classes. 

In the skilled handicrafts, long accustomed to corporate 
government, we find, even under repressive laws, no unlaw- 
/ f ul oaths, seditious emblems, or other common paraphernalia 
Nof secret societies. The London Brushmakers, whose 
Union apparently dates from the early part of the eighteenth 
century, expressly insisted " that no person shall be admitted 
a member who is not well affected to his present Majesty 
and the Protestant Succession, and in good health and of 
a respectable character." But this loyalty was not incon- 
sistent with their subscribing to the funds of the 1831 
agitation for the Reform Bill. 1 The prevailing tone of the 
> superior workmen down to 1848 was, in fact, strongly 
j ; Radical ; and their leaders took a prominent part in all the 
' working-class politics of the time. From their ranks came 
such organisers as Place, Lovett, and Gast. 2 But wherever 

Lovett came to London in 1819 he found that he could not get employment 
without joining the Union (Life of William Lovett, by himself). The 
millwrights at the beginning of the century were so strongly organised 
this probably led to the engineering employers' petition in 1799 out of 
which the Combination Acts sprang that when Fairbairn (after being 
actually engaged at Rennie's works) was refused admission into their 
society, he was driven to tramp out of London in search of work in a 
non-union district (Life of Sir William Fairbairn, by himself, 1877, 
PP- 89, 92). For the last three-quarters of the century a considerable 
proportion of the cabinetmakers and engineers employed in London have 
been outside the Trade Union ranks. 

1 Articles of the Society of Journeymen Brushmakers, held at the sign of 
the Craven Head, Drury Lane, 1806 ; Minutes, April 27, 1831. 

? John Cast, a shipwright of Deptford, was evidently one of the ablest 
Trade Unionists of his time. We first hear of him in 1802, when there was 
a serious strike in London that attracted the attention of the Government 

John Gast 85 

f we have been able to gain any idea of their proceedings, 
(their trade clubs were free from anything that could now 
[be conceived as political sedition. It was these clubs of 
handicraftsmen that formed the backbone of the various 
" central committees " which dealt with the main topics of 
Trade Unionism during the next thirty years. They it 
was who furnished such assistance as was given by working 
men to the movement for the repeal of the Combination 
Laws. And their influence gave a certain dignity and 
stability to the Trade Union Movement, without which, 
under hostile governments, it could never have emerged 
from the petulant rebellions of hunger-strikes and machine- 

The principal effect of the Combination Laws on these 
well-organised handicrafts in London, Liverpool, Dublin, 
-and perhaps other towns, was to make the internal disci- 
pline more rigid and the treatment of non-unionists more 
k arbitrary. Place describes how " in these societies there 
are some few individuals who possess the confidence of their 
fellows, and when any matter relating to the trade has 

(Home Office Papers in Record Office, 65 i, July and August 1802), as 
the author of a striking pamphlet entitled A Vindication of the Conduct of 
the Shipwrights during the late disputes with their Employers (1802, 38 pp.). 
In 1818 he is found advocating the first recorded proposal for a general 
workmen's organisation, as distinguished from separate trade clubs to 
be described in our next chapter ; and his Articles of the Philanthropic 
Hercules for the Mutual Support of the Labouring Mechanics, which were 
printed in the Gorgon, attracted the attention of Francis Place, who de- 
scribed him (Place MSS, 27819 23) as having " long been secretary to the 
Shipwrights' Club : he was a steady, respectable man. He had formed 
several associations of working men, but had been unable to keep up any 
one of them." He became one of Place's most useful allies in the agitation 
for a repeal of the Combination Laws, and when, in 1825, their re-enactment 
was threatened, his " committee of trades delegates " was Place's strongest 
support. Gast was the leading spirit in the establishment of the Trades 
Newspaper in July 1825, and became chairman of th committee of 
management, as well as a frequent contributor. In the same year he was 
actively engaged in the shipwrights' struggle for a " Book of Rates," or 
definite list of piecework prices, and the energy with which he counter- 
acted the design of the Board of Admiralty,' of allowing the London ship- 
builders to borrow men from the Portsmouth Navy Yard, contributed 
mainly to the success of the fight. 

86 The Struggle for Existence 

been talked over, either at the club or in a separate room, 
or in a workshop or a yard, and the matter has become 
notorious, these* men are expected to direct what shall be 
done, and they do direct simply by a hint. On this the 
men act ; and one and all support those who may be 
thrown out of work or otherwise inconvenienced. If 
matters were to be discussed as gentlemen seem to suppose 
they must be, no resolution would ever be come to. The 
influence of the men alluded to would soon cease if the law 
, were repealed. It is the law and the law alone which causes 
^ the confidence of the men to be given to their leaders. 
Those who direct are not known to the body, and not one 
man in twenty, perhaps, knows the person of any one who 
directs. It is a rule among them to ask no questions, and 
another rule among them who know most, either to give 
no answer if questioned, or an answer to mislead." 1 

In the new machine industries, on the other hand, the 
repeated reductions of wages, the rapid alterations of pro- 
> cesses, and the substitution of women and children for 
I adult male workers, had gradually reduced the workers to 
I a condition of miserable poverty. The reports of Parlia- 
mentary committees, from 1800 onward, contain a dreary 
record of the steady degradation of the Standard of Life in 
the textile industries. " The sufferings of persons employed 
in the cotton manufacture/' Place writes of this period, 
" were beyond credibility : they were drawn into combina- 
tions, betrayed, prosecuted, convicted, sentenced, and 
monstrously severe punishments inflicted on them : they 
were reduced to and kept in the most wretched state of 
existence." 2 Their employers, instead of being, as in the 
older handicrafts, little more than master workmen, recog- 

1 Place MSS. 27800 195. 

2 Place MSS. 27798 u ; and The Town Labourer, 1760-1832, by 
J. L. and B. Hammond, 1917. Between 1798-1803 and 1804-16 the 
piecework wages for handloom cotton weaving were reduced in some cases 
by 80 per cent at a time of war prices (Geschichtc der englischen Lohn- 
arbtit, by Gustav Steflfen, Stuttgart, 1900, vol. ii. pp. 19-20). See History 
of Wages in the Cotton Trade d^tr^ng the Past Hundred Years, by G. H, 
Wood, 1910 ; and Cunningham, Growth, etc., 1903, p. 634. 

The Luddites 87 

nising the customary Standard of Life of their journeymen, 
; were often capitalist entrepreneurs, devoting their whole 
''energies to the commercial side of the business, and leaving 
their managers to buy labour in the market at the cheapest 
.possible rate. This labour was recruited from all localities 
and many different occupations. It was brigaded and 
'controlled by despotic laws, enforced by numerous fines 
I and disciplinary deductions. Cases of gross tyranny and 
heartless cruelty are not wanting. Without a common 
standard, a common tradition, or mutual confidence, the 
workers in the new mills were helpless against their masters. 
Their ephemeral combinations and frequent strikes were, Its 
a rule, only passionate struggles to maintain a bare subsist- 
ence wage. In place of the steady organised resistance to 
encroachments maintained by the handicraftsmen, we 
watch, in the machine industries, the alternation of out- 
bursts of machine-breaking and outrages, with intervals of 
abject submission and reckless competition with each other 
J or employment. In the conduct of such organisation as 
there was, repressive laws had, with the operatives as with 
the London artisans, the effect of throwing great power into 
-the hands of a few men. These leaders were implicitly 
..obeyed in times of industrial conflict, but the repeated 
'defeats which they were unable to avert prevented that 
'growth of confidence which is indispensable for permanent 
^organisation. 1 Both leaders and rank and file, too, were 
largely implicated in political seditions, and were the victims 
of spies and Ministerial emissaries of all sorts. All these 
circumstances led to the prevalence among them o fearful 
oaths, mystic initiation rites, and other manifestations of a 
sensationalism which was sometimes puerile and sometimes 

The most notorious of these " seditions," about which 
little is really known, was the " Luddite " upheaval of 
1811-12, when riotous mobs of manual workers, acting 

1 See on all these points the evidence given before the Committee on 
Artisans and Machinery, 1824 ; especially that of Richmond. 

88 The Struggle for Existence 


, under some sort of organisation, went about destroying 
\ textile machinery and sometimes wrecking factories. To 
what extent this had any direct connection with the Trade 
Union Movement seems to us, pending more penetrating 
investigation of the unpublished evidence, somewhat 
uncertain. That the operatives very generally sympathised 
with the most violent protest against the displacement of 
hand labour by machinery, and the extreme distress which 
it was causing, is clear. The Luddite movement apparently 
began among the Framework-knitters, who had long been 
organised in local clubs, with some rudimentary federal 
bond ; and the whole direction of the Luddites was often 
ascribed, as by the Mayor of Leicester in 1812, to " the 
Committee of Framework-knitters, who have as complete 
an organisation of the whole body as you could have of a 
regiment." * But money was collected from men of other 
trades, notably bricklayers, masons, spinners, weavers, 
and colliers, as well as from the soldiers in some of the 
regiments stationed at provincial centres ; and such evi- 
dence as we have found points rather to a widespread secret 
oath-bound conspiracy, not of the men of any one trade, 
but of wage-earners of all kinds. We find an informer 
stating (June 22, 1812), with what truth we know not, 
" that the Union extends from London to Nottingham, 
and from thence to Manchester and Carlisle. Small towns 
lying between the principal places are not yet organised, 
such as Garstang and Burton. Only some of the trades 
have taken the first oath. He says there is a second oath 
taken by suspicious persons." 2 On the other hand, it looks 
as if the various local Trade Clubs were made use of, in 
some cases informally, as agents or branches of the con- 

General Maitland, writing from Buxton (June 22, 1812) 
to the Home Secretary, says that, in his opinion, " the whole 
of this business . . . originated in those constant efforts 

1 Letter to the local Major-General, June 15, 1812, in Home Office 
Papers, 40 i. z Ibid. 

"KingLud" 89 

made by these associations for many years past to keep up 
the price of the manufacturers' wages ; that finding their 
efforts for this unavailing, both from the circumstances of 
the trade and the high price of provisions, they in a moment 
of irritation, for which it is but just to say they had con- 
siderable ground from the real state of distress in which they 
were placed . . . began to think of effecting that by force 
which they had ever been trying to do by other means ; 
and that in this^ state the oath was introduced. ... I 
believe the whole to be, certainly a most mischievous, but 
undefined and indistinct attempt to be in a state of pre- 
paration to do that by force which they had not succeeded 
in carrying into effect as they usually did by other means." 
The whole episode has been too much ignored, even by 
social historians ; and " Byron's famous speech and 
.'Charlotte Bronte's more famous novel give to most people 
)their idea of the misery of the time, and of its cause, the 
Idisplacement of hand labour by machinery." 1 

The coal-miners were in many respects even worse off 
than the hosiery workers and the cotton weavers. In 
-Scotland they had been but lately freed from actual serfdom, 
the final act of emancipation not having been passed until 
1799. In Monmouthshire and South Wales the oppression 
of the " tommy shops " of the small employers was extreme. 
In the North of England the " yearly bond," the truck 

1 The Town Labourer, 1760-1832, by J. L. and B. Hammond, 1917, 
p. 15. Whether Gravener Henson, the bobbin-net maker of Nottingham, 
subsequently author of a History of the Framework-Knitters (1831), who had 
long been a leader of the Framework-knitters, was the " King Lud " 
under whose orders the machine-breakers often purported to act, is yet 
unproven (Life of Francis Place, by Prof. Graham Wallas, revised edition, 
/i 9 1 8). The Report of the House of Commons Committee on the Frame- 
4 work-knitters' petitions (1812) affords evidence of the all-pervading misery 
'of the time. For other glimpses of the Luddite organisation, see An 
Appeal to the Public, containing an account of services rendered during the 
disturbances in the North of England in the year 1812, by Francis Raynes. - 
1817 (in Home Office Papers, 40) ; Report of Proceedings under Commission 
of Oyer and Terminer, January 2 to 12, 1813, at York, by J. and W. B. 
Gurney, 1813; Digest of Evidence of Committee on A rtizans and Machinery, 
by George White, 1824 (seep. 36, Richmond's evidence as to the appeals of 
the Luddites to the Glasgow cotton-spinners) ; and Annual Register, 1812 

90 The Struggle for Existence 


system, and the arbitrary fines kept the underground 
workers in complete subjection. The result is seen in the 
turbulence of their frequent " sticks " or strikes, during 
which troops were often required to quell their violence. 
The great strike of 1810 was carried on by an oath-bound 
confederacy recruited by the practice of " brothering," " so 
named because the members of the union bound themselves 
by a most solemn oath to obey the orders of the brotherhood, 
under the penalty of being stabbed through the heart or of 
having their bowels ripped up." l 

< /Notwithstanding these differences between various 
* classes of workers, the growing sense of solidarity among 
/ the whole body of wage-earners rises into special prominence 
^ during this period of tyranny and repression. The trades 
in which it was usual for men to tramp from place to place 
in search of employment had long possessed, as we have 
seen, some kind of loose federal organisation extending 
throughout the country. In spite of the law of 1797 for- 
' bidding the existence of " corresponding societies," the 
various federal organisations of Curriers, Hatters, Calico- 
printers, Woolcombers, Woolstaplers, and other handi- 
craftsmen kept up constant correspondence on trade matters, 
and raised money for common trade purposes. In some 
Ceases there existed an elaborate national organisation, 
with geographical districts and annual delegate meetings, 
like that of the Calico-printers who were arrested by thej 
Bolton constables in 1818. The rules of the Paper-makers, 2 
which certainly date from 1803, provide for the division oi 
England into five districts, with detailed arrangements for 

1 Evidence of a colliery engineer in the Newcastle district before 
Committee on Combination Laws, 1825 ; summarised in Report on Tradt\ 
Societies, 1860, by Social Science Association. See also A Voice from tht^ 
Coalmines, 1825 ; A Candid Appeal to the Coalowners and Viewers oj\ 
Collieries on the Tyne and Wear, including a copy of the Cottier's Bond, witfl 
Animadversions thereon and a series of proposed Amendments, from tht\ 
Committee of the Colliers' United Association, 1826 (in Home Office Papers 
H.O. 40 (19), with Lord Londonderry's letter of February 28, 1826) ; Tht\ 
Miners of Northumberland and Durham, by Richard Fynes, pp. 12-16 
(1873) ; An Earnest Address . . . on behalf of the Pitmen, by W. Scott, 1831' 

2 See Appendix to Report of Select Committee on Combinations, 1825 

The Liverpool Ropemakers 91 

representation and collective action. This national organi- 
sation was, notwithstanding repressive laws, occasionally 
very effective. We need cite only one instance, furnished 
by the Liverpool Ropemakers in 1823. When a certain 
firm attempted to put labourers to the work, the local 
society of ropespinners informed it that this was " contrary 
to the regulations of the trade," and withdrew all their 
members. The employers, failing to get men in Liverpool, 
sent to Hull and Newcastle, but found that the Ropespinners' 
Society had already apprised the local trade clubs at those 
towns. The firm then imported " blacklegs " from Glasgow, 
who were met on arrival by the local unionists, inveigled to 
a " trade club-house," and alternately threatened and 
cajoled out of their engagements. Finally the head of the 
firm went to London to purchase yarn ; but the London 
workmen, finding that the yarn was for a " struck shop/' 
refused to complete the order. The last resource of the 
employers was an indictment at the Sessions for combina- 
tion, but a Liverpool jury, in the teeth of the evidence and 
the judge's summing up, gave a verdict of acquittal. 1 

This solidarity was not confined to the members of a 
particular trade. The masters are always complaining 
that one trade supports another, and old account books of 
Trade Unions for this period abound with entries of sums 
contributed in aid of disputes in other trades, either in the 
same town or elsewhere. Thus the small society of London 
Goldbeaters, during the three years 1810-12, lent or gave 
substantial sums, amounting in all to 200, to fourteen other 
trades. 2 The Home Secretary was informed in 1823 that 

1 R. v. Yates and Others, Liverpool Sessions, August 10, 1823. See 
newspaper report preserved in Place MSS. 27804 154. 
* The entries in this old cash-book are of some interest : 

May 29, 1810 Paid ye Brushmakers . ^1500 

Lent ye Brushmakers . 
Paid ye Friziers 

June 26, 1810 Paid ye Silversmiths . 

Expenses to Pipemakers 
July 24, 1810 Paid ye Braziers 

Paid ye Bookbinders 
Paid ye Curriers . 

10 o o 

20 o o 

10 o o 

10 10 o 

10 O O 

10 O O 

92 The Struggle for Existence 

a combination of cotton-spinners at Bolton, whose books had 
been seized, had received donations, not only from twenty- 
eight cotton-spinners' committees in as many Lancashire 
towns, but also from fourteen other trades, from coal-miners 
to butchers. 1 A picturesque illustration of ihiaJ^rotherly 
help in, need occurs in the account of an appeal to the 
Pontefract Quarter Sessions by certain Sheffield cutlers 
against their conviction for combination : " The appellants 
were in court, but hour after hour passed, and no counsel 
moved the case. The reason was a want of funds for the 
purpose. At last, whilst in court, a remittance from the 
clubs in Manchester, to the amount of one hundred pounds, 
arrived, and then the counsel was fee'd, and the case, which, 
but for the arrival of the money from this town, must have 
dropped in that stage, was proceeded with." 2 And 
although the day of Trades Councils had not yet come, it 
was a common thing for the various trade societies of a 
particular town to unite in sending witnesses to Parlia- 
mentary Committees, preparing petitions to the House of 
Commons and paying counsel to support their case, engaging 
solicitors to prosecute offending employers, and collecting 
subscriptions for strikes. 3 This tendency to form joint 

Aug. 21, 1 8 10 Lent ye Bit and Spurmakers 
Lent ye Scalemakers . 
Paid ye Leathergrounders . 

Oct. 26, 1 8 10 Paid ye Tinplate Workers 

30 o o 
10 o o 
o 12 6 

Dec. ii, 1 8 10 Lent ye Ropemakers 

May 30, 1811 Received of Scale Beam-makers 

June 25, 1811 Expenses with Papermakers 

July 20, 1812 Lent ye Sadlers 10 o 

Oct. 12, 1812 Paid to Millwrights . . . . 50 o 
Dec. 7, 1812 Borrowed from the Musical Instru- 
ment-makers . . . .200 

1 Home Office Papers, 40 18, March 31, 1823. 

2 See report in the Manchester Exchange Herald, about 1818, preserved 
in Place MSS. 27799156. 

* See, for instance, the witnesses delegated by the Glasgow and Man-j 
Chester trades to the Select Committee on Petitions of Artisans, etc., reporlj 
of June 13, 181 1 ; or the joint action of the Yorkshire and West of England! 
Woollen- workers given in evidence before the Select Committee of 1806. 
These cases are typical of many others. 

The Class War 93 

'committees of local trades was, as we shall see, greatly 
strengthened in the agitation against the Combination Laws 
from 1823-25. -With the final abandonment of all legis- 
lative protection of the Standard of Life, and the complete 
divorce of the worker from the instruments of production, 
the wage-earners in the various industrial centres became 
indeed ever more conscious of the widening of the old 
separate trade disputes into "the class war" which has 
characterised the past century. x x 

It is difficult to-day to realise the nai've surprise with 
which the employers of that time regarded the practical 
development of working-class solidarity. The master 
witnesses before Parliamentary Committees, and the judges 
in sentencing workmen for combination, are constantly 
found reciting instances of mutual help to prove the exist- 
ence of a widespread " conspiracy " against the dominant 
classes. That the London Tailors should send money to the 
Glasgow Weavers, or the Goldbeaters to the. Ropespinners, 
seemed to the middle and upper classes little short of a 

The movement for a repeal of the Combination Laws 
began in a period of industrial dislocation and severe 
political repression. The economic results of the long war, 
culminating in the comparatively low prices of the peace 
for most manufactured products, though not for wheat, 
led in 1816 to an almost universal reduction of wages 
throughout the country. In open dejiance-of the law the 
masters, in many instances, deliberately combined in 
agreements to pay lower rates. This agreement was not 
"confined to the employers in a particular trade, who may 
have been confronted by organised bodies of journeymen, 
but extended, in some cases, to all employers of labour in a 
particular locality. The landowners and farmers of Tiver- 
ton, for instance, at a " numerous and respectable meeting 
at the Town Hall " in 1816, resolved " that, in consequence 
of the low price of provisions," not more than certain 
specified wages should be given to smiths, carpenters, 

94 The Struggle for Existence 

masons, thatchers, or masons' labourers. 1 The Compositors, 
Coopers, Shoemakers, Carpenters, and many other trades 
record serious reductions of wages at this period. In these 
cases the masters justified their action on the ground that, 
owing to the fall of prices, the Standard of Life of the 
journeymen would not be depressed. But in the great 
staple industries there ensued a cutting competition between 
employers to secure orders in a falling market, their method 
being to undersell each other by beating down wages below 
subsistence level an operation often aided by the practice, 
then common, of supplementing insufficient earnings out of 
the Poor Rate. This produced such ruinous results that 
local protests were soon made. At Leicester the authorities 
decided to maintain the men's " Statement Price " by 
agreeing to wholly support out of a voluntary fund those 
who could not get work at the full rates. This was bitterly 
resented by the neighbouring employers, who seriously 
contemplated indicting the lord-lieutenant, mayor, alder 
men, clergy, and other subscribers for criminal conspiracy 
to keep up wages. 2 And in 1820 a public meeting of the 
ratepayers of Sheffield protested against the " evil of parish 
pay to supplement earnings," and recommended employer* 
to revert to the uniform price list which the men had gainec 
in i8io. 8 Finally we have the employers themselves 
publicly denouncing the ruinous extent to which the cutting 
of wages had been carried. A declaration dated June i6| 
1819, and signed by fourteen Lancashire manufacturers 

1 Printed handbill signed by thirty-two persons, issued in the summe: 
of 1816, preserved in Place MSS. 27799 141. Place has also preservec 
the rejoinder of the workmen, which is unsigned, as he notes, for fear o 

2 The Stocking Makers' Monitor, January 1818 ; A few Remarks on thA 
State of the Law, etc., by White and Henson, p. 88 ; An Appeal to the Publi 
on the subject of the Framework-Knitters' Fund, by the Rev. Robert Haljt 
(Leicester, 1819) ; Cobbett's Weekly Register, vol. xxxix. ; A Reply to th^ 
Principal Objections advanced by Cobbett and Others, by the Rev. Rober,( 
Hall (Leicester, 1821) : Digest of Evidence before the Committee on Artizan i 
2nd Machinery, by George White, 1824. 

8 Proceedings at a public Meeting of the Inhabitants of the Township oiJ 
Sheffield, held at the Town Hall, March 13, 1820 (Sheffield, 1820, 16 pp.). 

The Weavers' Provident Union 95 

regrets that they have been compelled by the action of a'few 
competitors to lower wages to the present rates, and strongly 
condemns any further reduction ; whilst twenty-five of the 
most eminent calico-printing firms append an emphatic 
approval of the protest, and state " that the system of 
paying such extremely low wages for manufacturing labour 
is injurious to the trade at large." l At Coventry the 
ribbon manufacturers combined with the Weavers' Provi- 
dent Union to maintain a general adherence to the agreed 
list of prices, and in 1819 subscribed together no less than 
16,000 to cover the cost of proceedings with this object. 
This combination formed the subject of an indictment at 
Warwick Assizes, which put an end to the association, the 
remaining funds being handed over to the local " Streets 
Commissioners " for paving the city. These protests and 
struggles of the better employers were in vain. Rates were 
reduced and strikes occurred all over the country, and were 
met, not by redress or sympathy, but by an outburst of 
prosecutions and sentences of more than the usual ferocity. 
The common law and ancient statutes were ruthlessly used 
to supplement the Combination Acts, often by strained"^ 
constructions. The Scotch judges in particular, as an 
eminent Scotch jurist declared to the Parliamentary Com- 
mittee in 1824, applied the criminal procedure of Scotland 
to cases of simple combination, from 1813-19, in a way 
that he, on becoming Lord Advocate, refused to counte- 
nance. 2 The workers, on attempting some spasmodic pre- 
parations for organised political agitation, were further 
coerced, in 1819, by the infamous " Six Acts/' which at onej 
blow suppressed practically all public meetings, enabled 
the magistrate to search for arms, subjected all working- 
class publications to the crushing stamp duty, and rendered 
more stringent the law relating to seditious libels. The 
whole system of repression which had characterised the 

1 Times, August 5, 1819. 

2 Evidence of Sir William Rae, Bart., before Select Committee on 
Artisans and Machinery, 1824, p. 486. 

96 The Struggle for Existence 

statesmanship of the Regency culminated at this period in 
a tyranny not exceeded by any of the monarchs of the 
" Holy Alliance." The effect of this tyranny was actually 
{ to shield the Combination Laws by turning the more ener- 
1 getic and enlightened working-class .leaders away from all 
specific reforms to a thorough revolution of the whole system 
of Parliamentary representation. Hence there was no 
popular movement whatever for the repeal of the Com- 
bination Laws. If we were writing the history of the English 
working class instead of that of the Trade Union Movement, 
we should find in William Cobbett or " Orator " Hunt, in 
Samuel Bamford or William Lovett, a truer representative! 
of the current aspirations of the English artisan at this 
time than in the man who now came unexpectedly on 
the scene to devise and carry into effect the Trade Union 
Emancipation of 1824. 

Francis Place was a master tailor who had created a 
successful business in a shop at Charing Cross. Before] 
setting up for himself he had worked as a journeymc 
breeches-maker, and had organised combinations in his owr| 
and other trades. After 1818 he left the conduct of the 
business to his son, and devoted his keenly practical intelleclj 
and extraordinary persistency first to the repeal of tl 
Combination Laws, and next to the Reform Movement! 
In social theory he was a pupil of Bentham 
James Mill, and his ideal may be summed up as politk 
Democracy with industrial liberty, or, as we should n< 
say, thoroughgoing Radical Individualism. No one wl 
has closely studied his life and work will doubt that, wil 
the narrow sphere to which his unswerving practicality coi 
fined him, he was the most remarkable politician of his 
His chief merit lay in his thorough understanding of 
art of getting things done. In agitation, permeati( 
wire-pulling, Parliamentary lobbying, the drafting oil 
resolutions, petitions, and bills in short, of all those artifi 
fices by which a popular movement is first created and theJI 
made effective on the Parliamentary system he was ai I 

Francis Place 97 

inventor and tactician of the first order. Above all, he 
possessed in perfection the rare quality of permitting other 
people to carry off the credit of his work, and thus secured 
for his proposals willing promoters and supporters, some of 
the leading Parliamentary figures of the time owing all their 
knowledge on his questions to the briefs with which he 
supplied them. The invaluable collection of manuscript 
records left by him, now in the British Museum, prove that 
modesty had nothing to do with his contemptuous readi- 
ness to leave the trophies of victory to his pawns provided 
his end was attained. He was thoroughly appreciative of 
the fact that in every progressive movement his shop at 
Charing Cross was the real centre of power when the Parlia- 
mentary stage of a progressive movement was reached. 
It remained, from 1807 down to about 1834, the recognised 
meeting-place of all the agitators of the time. 1 

It was in watching the effect of the Combination Laws 
in his own trade that Place became converted to their 
repeal. The special laws of 1720 and 1767, fixing the 
wages of journeymen tailors, as well as the general law 
of 1800 against all combinations, had failed to regulate 

vages, to prevent strikes, or to hinder those masters who 
wished in times of pressure to engage skilled men, from 

ffering the bribe of high piecework rates, or even time 
vages in excess of the legal limit. Place gave evidence 

s a master tailor before the Select Committee of the House 

f Commons which inquired into the subject in 1810 ; and 
t was chiefly his weighty testimony in favour of freedom 

f contract that averted the fresh legal restrictions which 

combination of employers was then openly promoting. 2 

This experience of the practical freedom of employers to 

ombine intensified Place's sense of the injustice of denying 

like freedom to the journeymen, whilst the brutal prose- 

1 An admirable biography has now been written, The Life of Francis 
^lace, 1771-1854, by Prof. Graham Wallas; first edition, 1898; revised 
dition, 1918. 

2 Place MSS. 27798 8, 12, etc.; Times, November 9, 1810; The 
"ailoring Trade, by F. W. Galton, 1896, pp. no-ii. 

98 The Struggle for Existence 

cution of the compositors -of the Times in the same year 
brought home to his mind the severity of the law. Four 
years later (1814), as he himself tells us, he " began to work 
seriously to procure a repeal of the laws against combina- 
tions of workmen, but for a long time made no visible 
progress." The employers were firmly convinced that 
combinations of wage-earners would succeed in securing a 
great rise of wages, to the serious detriment of profits. Far 
from contemplating a repeal of the Act of 1800, they were 
in 1814 and 1816 pestering the Home Secretary for legis- 
lation of greater stringency as the only safeguard for their 
" freedom of enterprise." x The politicians were equally 
certain that Trade Union action would raise prices, and 
thus undermine the foreign trade upon which the pros- 
perity and international influence of England depended 
The working men themselves afforded in the first instance 
no assistance. Those who had "suffered legal prosecutior 
wer^Thopeless of redress from an unreformed Parliament 
and offered no support. One trade, the Spitalfields silk 
weavers, supported the Government because they enjoy 
what they deemed to be the advantage of legal protectio: 
from the lowering of wages by competition. 2 Others wer< 
suspicious of the intervention of one who was himself 
employer, and who had not yet gained recognition as 
friend to labour. But Place was undismayed by hostilit; 
and indifference. Knowing that with an English publi 
the strength of his cause would lie, not in any abstr 

1 See the petitions of the Master Manufacturers of Glasgow, Lane 
and Nottinghamshire, in the Home Office Papers (42 141, 149, 150, i< 

2 When Place in 1824 urged the " Committee of Engine Silk-weaA 
of Spitalfields to petition for a repeal of the Combination Laws, the meel 
" Resolved, that protected as we have been for years under the salul 
laws and wisdom of the Legislature, and being completely unappreher 
of any sort of combination on our part, we cannot therefore take any 
of notice of the invitation held out by Mr. Place." When this resolul 
was put by the chairman, " an unanimous burst of applause follow 
with a multitude of voices exclaiming, ' The law, cling to the law, it 
protect us 1 ' " Place MSS. 27800 52 ; Morning Chronicle, February 

Joseph Hume 99 

easoning or appeal to natural rights, but in an enumeration 
>f actual cases of injustice, he made a point of obtaining 
;he particulars of every trade dispute. He intervened, as 
le says, in every strike, sometimes as a mediator, sometimes 
is an ally of the journeymen. He opened up a voluminous 
correspondence with Trade Unions throughout the kingdom, 
ind wrote innumerable letters to the newspapers. In 1818 
le secured a useful medium in the Gorgon* a little working- 
class political newspaper, started by one Wade, a wool- 
comber, and subsidised by Bentham and Place himself. 
Fhis gained him his two most important disciples, event- 
lally the chief instruments of his work, J. R. McCulloch 
ind Joseph Hume. McCulloch, afterwards to gain fame as 
m economist, was at that time the editor of the Scotsman, 
perhaps the most important of the provincial newspapers. 
\ powerful article based on Place's facts which he con- 
iributed to the Edinburgh Review in 1823 secured many 
converts ; and his constant advocacy gave Place's idea a 
weight and notoriety which it had hitherto lacked. Joseph 
Hume was an even more important ally. His acknow- 
.edged position in the House of Commons as one of the 
eaders of the growing party of Philosophic Radicalism 
gained for the repeal movement a steadily increasing support 
rith advanced members of Parliament. Among a certain 
ection in the House the desirability of freedom of com- 
ination began to be discussed ; presently it was considered 
racticable ; and soon many came to regard it as an inevit- 
ble outcome of their political creed. In 1822 Place 
lought the tune ripe for action ; and Hume accordingly 
ave notice of his intention to bring in a Bill to repeal all 
ife laws against combinations. 

Place's manuscripts and letters contain a graphic 
ccount of the wire-pullings and manipulations of the next 
wo years. 2 In these contemporary pictures of the inner 

1 The volumes for 1818-19 are in the British Museum. 
8 The story has now been well told in The Life of Francis Place, by 
'rof. Graham Wallas, revised edition, 1918, ch. viii. ; . and in The Town 

ioo The Struggle for Existence 

workings of the Parliamentary system we watch Hume 
cajoling Huskisson and Peel into granting him a Select 
Committee, staving off the less tactful proposals of a rival 
M.P., 1 and finally, in February 1824, packing the Com- 
mittee of Inquiry at length appointed. Hume, with some 
art, had included in his motion three distinct subjects 
the emigration of artisans, the exportation of machinery, 
and combinations of workmen, all of which were forbidden 
by law. To Place and Hume the repeal of the Combination 
Laws was the main object ; but Huskisson and his colleagues 
regarded the Committee as primarily charged with an 
inquiry into the possibility of encouraging the rising manu- 
facture of machinery, which was seriously hampered by 
the prohibition of sales to foreign countries. Huskisson 
tried to induce Hume to omit from the Committee's reference 
all mention of the Combination Laws, evidently regarding 
them as only a minor and unimportant part of the inquiry. ! 
But Place and Hume were now masters of the situation;! 
and for the next few months they devoted their whole time! 
to the management of the Committee. At first no one 
seems to have had any idea that its proceedings were going! 

Labourer, by J. L. and B. Hammond, 1917, ch. vii. A few other details! 
will be found in Digest of Evidence before the Committee on Artisan&\ 
and Machinery, by George White, 1824, and in Labour Legislation, Labour, 
Movements, and Labour Leaders, by G. Howell, 1902, pp. 43-57. 

1 In 1823 George White, a " clerk of committees " of the House o 
Commons, had formed an alliance with Gravener Henson, the bobbin-no'; 
maker of Nottingham, who had long been a leader of the framework-knitters 
combinations, to whom reference has been made in preceding pages; 
Together they prepared an elaborate Bill repealing all the Combinatioi 
Acts, and substituting a complicated jraujunery for regulating pieceworl 
and settlinglndustriaTaispj^tes. "Some of these proposals were meritoriou 
anticipations of subsequent factory legislation ; but the time was no 
ripe for such measures. This Bill, promptly introduced by Peter Moore 
the member for Coventry, had the effect of scaring some timid legislators 
and especially alarming the Front Bench. Hume was at a loss to knoA 
how to act ; but Place, in a letter displaying great political sagacit} 
advised him to baulk the rival Bill by putting its author on the Committe 
of Inquiry, explaining that " Moore is not a man to be put aside. Thj I 
only way to put him down is to let him talk his nonsense in the Committee 
where, being outvoted, he will be less of an annoyance in the House. 
See Place MSS. 27798 12. 

Packing the Committee 101 

to be of any moment ; and no trouble was taken by the 
Ministry with regard to its composition. " It was with 
difficulty," writes Place, " that Mr. Hume could obtain 
the names of twenty-one members to compose the Com- 
mittee ; but when it had sat three days, and had become 
both popular and amusing, members contrived to be put 
upon it ; and at length it consisted of forty-eight mem- 
bers." l Hume, who was' appointed chairman, appears to 
have taken into his own hands the entire management of 
the proceedings. A circular explaining the objects of the 
inquiry was sent to the mayor or other public officer of 
forty provincial towns, and appeared in the principal local 
newspapers. Public meetings were held at Stockport and 
other towns to depute witnesses to attend the Committee. 2 
Meanwhile Place, who had by this time acquired the con- 
fidence of the chief leaders of the working class, secured the 
attendance of artisan witnesses from all parts of the kingdom. 
Read in the light of Place's private records and daily corre- 
spondence with Hume, the proceedings of this " Committee 
on Artisans and Machinery " reveal an almost perfect 

example-xif political manipulation. Although no hostile 

witness was denied a hearing^lt was evidently arranged that 
the employers who were favourable to repeal should be 
examined first, and that the preponderance of evidence 
should be on their side. And whilst those interests which 
would have been antagonistic to the repeal were neither 
professionally represented nor deliberately organised, the 
men's case was marshalled with admirable skill by Place, 
and fully brought out by Hume's examination. Thus the 
one acted as the Trade Unionists' Parliamentary solicitor, 
and the other as their unpaid counsel. 3 

1 Place MSS. 2779830. 

J This attracted the attention of the Home Secretary (Home Office 
Papers, 40 18). 

8 Place offered to act as Hume's " assistant " ; but the members of 
the Committee, whose suspicions had been aroused, refused to permit him 
to remain in the room, on the double ground that he was not a member of 
the House, nor even a gentleman I 

IO2 The Struggle for Existence 

Place himself tells us how he proceeded : " The delegates 
from the working people had reference to me, and I opened 
my house to them. Thus I had all the town and country 
delegates under my care. I heard the story which every 
one of these men had to tell, I examined and cross-examined 
them, took down the leading particulars of each case, 
and then arranged the matter as briefs for Mr. Hume, and 
as a rule, for the guidance of the witnesses, a copy was 
given to each. . . . Each brief contained the principal 
questions and answers. . . . That for Mr. Hume was 
generally accompanied by an appendix of documents 
arranged in order, with a short account of such proceedings 
as were necessary to put Mr. Hume in possession of the 
whole case. Thus he was enabled to go on with considerable 
ease, and to anticipate or rebut objections." x 

The Committee sat in private ; but Hume's numerous 
letters to Place show how carefully the latter was kept 
posted up in all the proceedings : " As the proceedings 
of the Committee were printed from day to day for the 
use of the members, I had a copy sent to me by Mr. Hume, 
which I indexed on paper ruled in many columns, each 
column having an appropriate head or number. I also 
wrote remarks on the margins of the printed evidence ; 
this was copied daily by Mr. Hume's secretary, and then 
returned to me. This consumed much time, but enabled! 
Mr. Hume to have the whole mass constantly under hisi 
view ; and I am very certain that less pains and care would j 
not have been sufficient to have carried the business 1 
through." 2 

From Westminster Hall we are transported, by these! 
private notes for Hume's use, all now preserved in the 
British Museum, into the back parlour of the Chi 
Cross shop, where the London and provincial 
witnesses came for their instructions. " The workmen,' 
as Place tells us, " were not easily managed. It reqi 
great care and pains not to shock their prejudices so 

1 Place MSS. 27798 22. a Ibid. 27798 23. 

Repeal Triumphant 103 

to prevent them doing their duty before the Committee. 
They were filled with false notions, all attributing their 
distresses to wrong causes, which I, in this state of the 
business, dared not attempt to remove. Taxes, machinery, 
laws against combinations, the will of the masters, the 
conduct of magistrates these were the fundamental causes 
of all their sorrows and privations. ... I had to discuss 
everything with them most carefully, to arrange and pre- 
pare everything, and so completely did these things occupy 
my time that for more than three months I had hardly 
any rest." x 

The result of the inquiry was as Hume and Place had . 
ordained. A series of resolutions in favour of complete 
freedom of combination and liberty of emigration was 
adopted by the Committee, apparently without dissent. 
A Bill to repeal all the Combination Laws and to legalise 
trade societies was passed through both Houses, within - 
less than a week, at the close of the session, without either 
debate or division. Place and Hume contrived privately 
to talk over and to silence the few members who were alive 
to the situation ; and the measure passed, as Place remarks, 
" almost without the notice of members within or news- 
papers without." 2 So quietly was the Bill smuggled through 
Parliament that the magistrates at a Lancashire town un- 
wittingly sentenced certain cotton-weavers to imprison- 
ment for combination some weeks after the laws against 
that crime had been repealed. 3 

Place and Hume had, however, been rather too clever. 
Whilst the governing classes were quite unconscious that 
any important alteration of law or policy had taken place, 
the unlooked-for success of Place's agitation produced, as 
Nassau Senior describes, " a great moral effect " in all the 
industrial centres. " It confirmed in the minds of the 

1 Place MS. 27798 22. 

8 The Act was 5 George IV. c. 95. The question of the exportation of 
machinery was deferred until the next session. 

3 Letter in the Manchester Gazette, preserved in the Place MSS. 
27801 214. 

IO4 The Struggle for Existence 

operatives the conviction of the justice of their cause, tardily 
and reluctantly, but at last fully, conceded by the Legis- 
lature. That which was morally right in 1824 must have 
been so, they would reason, for fifty years before. . . . They 
conceived that they had extorted from the Legislature an 
admission that their masters must always be their rivals, 
and had hitherto been their oppressors, and that combina- 
tions to raise wages, and shorten the time or diminish the 
severity of labour, were not only innocent, but meritorious." l 
Trade Societies accordingly sprang into existence or emerged 
into aggressive publicity on all sides. A period of trade 
. inflation, together with a rapid rise in the price of provisions, 
favoured a general increase of wages. For the next six 
months the newspapers are full of strikes and rumours of 
strikes. Serious disturbances occurred at Glasgow, where 
the employers had been exceptionally oppressive, where the 
cotton operatives committed several outrages, and where 
a general lock-out took place. The cotton-spinners were 
once more striking in the Manchester district. The ship- 
ping trade of the North-EasTToasT:~was temporarily para- 
lysed by a strong combination of the seamen on the Tyne 
and Wear, who refused to sail except with Unionist seamen 
and Unionist officers. The Dublin trades, then the best 
organised in the kingdom, ruthlessly enforced their bye- 
laws for the regulation of their respective industries, and 
formed a joint committee, the so-called " Board of Green 
Cloth/' whose dictates became the terror of the employers. 
The Sheffield operatives have to be warned that, if they 
persist in demanding double the former wages for only 
three days a week work, the whole industry of the town 
will be ruined. 2 The London shipwrights insisted on what 
their employers considered the preposterous demand for 
" book of rates " for piecework The London coo] 
demanded a revision of their wages, which led to a long- 

1 MS. Report of Nassau Senior to Lord Melbourne on Trade Combii 
tions (1831 ; unpublished; in Home Office Library). 
1 Sheffield Iris, April 2, 1825. 

The Capitalist Reaction 105 

sustained conflict. In fact, as a provincial newspaper 
remarked a little later, " it is no longer a particular class of 
'journejnnen at 'some single point that have been induced 
) to commence a strike for an advance of wages, but almost 
sthe whole body of the mechanics in the kingdom are com- 
'bined in the general resolution to impose terms on their 
\employers." 1 

The opening of the session of 1825 found the employers 
throughout the country thoroughly aroused. Hume and 
Place had in vain preached moderation, and warned the 
Unions of the danger of a reaction. The great shipowning 
and shipbuildingjnterest, which had throughout the century 
preserv^d^mtarMts reputation for unswerving hostility to 
Trade Unionism, had poss^s^iolT75i~tKe"ea.F"of Huskisson, 
then President of the Board of Trade and member for 
Liverpool. Early in the session he moved for a committee 
of inquiry into the conduct of the workmen and the effect 
of the recent Act, which, he complained, had been smuggled 
through the House without his attention having been called 
to the fact that it went far beyond the mere repeal of the 
special statutes against combinations. 2 This time the 
composition of the committee was not left to chance, or to 
'Hume's manipulation. The members were, as Place com- 
plains, selected almost exclusively from the Ministerial 
benches, twelve out of the thirty being placemen, and many 
being representatives of rotten boroughs. Huskisson, 3 

1 Sheffield Mercury October 8, 1825 ; see th'e Manchester Guardian for 
August 1824 to a similar effect. 

8 Later in the year Lord Liverpool, the Prime Minister, and Lord 
Eldon, the Lord Chancellor, protested in debate that they had been quite 
unaware of the passing of the Act, and that they would never have assented 
to it. 

8 The Annual Register for 1825 gives a fuller report of Huskisson's 
speech than Hansard's Parliamentary Debates. Further particulars are 
supplied in George White's Abstract of the Act repealing the Laws against 
Combinations of Workmen (1824) ; in Place's Observations on Mr. Huskis- 
son's Speech on the Law relating to Combinations of Workmen, by F. P. (1825, 
32 pp.) ; in Wallas's Life of Francis Place, revised edition, 1918, ch. viii. ; 
in Hammond's The Town Labourer, ch. vii. ; and in Howell's Labour 
Legislation, Labour Movements, and Labour Leaders, pp. 51-7. 

E 2 

106 The Struggle for Existence 

Peel, and the Attorney-General themselves took part in its 
proceedings ; Wallace, the Master of the Mint, was made 
chairman, and Hume alone represented the workmen. 
Huskisson regarded the Committee as merely a formal pre- 
liminary to the introduction of the Bill which the shipping 
.interest had drafted, 1 under which Trade Unions, and even 
Friendly Societies, would have been impossible. For the 
inner history of this Committee we have to rely on Place's 
voluminous memoranda, and Hume's brief notes to him. 
According to these, the original intention was to call only a 
few employers as witnesses, to exclude all testimony on the 
other side, and promptly to report in favour of the repressive 
measure already prepared. Place, himself an expert in 
such tactics, met them by again supplying Hume daily with 
detailed information which enabled him to cross-examine 
the masters and expose their exaggerations. And, if Place's 
account of the animus of the Committee and the Ministers 
against himself be somewhat highly coloured, we have 
ample evidence of the success with which he guided the 
alarmed Trade Unions to take effectual action in their own 
defence. His friend John Cast, secretary to the London 
Shipwrights, called for two delegates from each trade 
in the metropolis, and formed a committee which kept 
up a persistent agitation against any re-enactment of the 
Combination Laws. Similar committees were formed 
at Manchester and Glasgow by the cotton operatives, at 
Sheffield by the cutlers, and at Newcastle by the seamen 
and shipwrights. Petitions, the draft of which appears in 
Place's manuscripts, poured in to the Select Committee and 
to both Houses. If we are to believe Place, the passages 
leading to the committee-room were carefully kept thron 
by crowds of workmen insisting on being examined to rebu 
the accusations of the employers, and waylaying individu 
members to whom they explained their grievances. All thi 

1 This included a provision to forbid the subscription of any funds to 
trade or other association, unless some magistrate approved its obj< 
and became its treasurer. 

Re-enactment 107 

energy on the part of the Unions was, as Place observes, in 
marked contrast with their apathy the year before. The 
workmen, though they had done nothing to gain their 
freedom of association, were determined to maintain it. 
Doherty, the leader of the Lancashire Cotton-spinners, 
C writing to Place in the heat of the agitation, declared that 
'any attempt at a re-enactment of the Combination Laws 
would result in a widespread revolutionary movement. 1 
The nett result of the inquiry was, on the whole, satisfactory. 
The Select Committee found themselves compelled to hear 
a certain number of workmen witnesses, who testified to the 
good results of the Act of the previous year. The ship- 
owners' Bill was abandoned, and the House of Commons 
was recommended to pass a measure which nominally 
re-established the general common-law prohibition of 
combinations, but specifically excepted from prosecution 
associations for the purpose of regulating wages or hours 
of labour. The master shipbuilders were furious at this 
virtual defeat. The handbill is still extant which they 
distributed at the doors of the House of Commons on the 
day of the second reading of the emasculated Bill. 2 They 
declared that its provisions were quite insufficient to save 
their industry from destruction. If Trade Unions were to 
be allowed to exist at all, they demanded that these bodies 
should be compelled to render full accounts of their expen- 
diture to the justices in Quarter Sessions, and that any 
diversion of monies raised for friendly society purposes 
should be severely punished. They pleaded, moreover, 
4 ) that at any rate all federal or combined action among trade 
clubs should be prohibited. Place and Hume, on the other 
hand, were afraid, and subsequent events proved with 
what good grounds, that the narrow limits of the trade 
combinations allowed by the Bill, and still more the vague 
terms " molest " and " obstruct/' which it contained, 
would be used as weapons against Trade Unionism. The 
Government, however, held to the draft of the Committee 

1 Place MSS. 27803299. * Ibid. 27803212. 

io8 The Struggle for Existence 

The shipbuilders secured nothing. Hume induced Ministers 
to give way on some verbal points, and took three divisions 
in vain protest against the measure. Place carried on the 
agitation to the House of Lords, where Lord Rosslyn 
extracted the concession of a right of appeal to Quarter 
Sessions, which was afterwards to prove of some practical 

The Act of 1825 (6 Geo. IV. c. . 129) 1 which became 
known among the manufacturers as " Peel's Act " though 
it fell short of the measure which Place and Hume had so 
skilfully piloted through Parliament the year before, effected 
a real emancipation. The right of collective bargaining, 
involving the power to withhold labour from the market by 
concerted action, was for the first time expressly established. 
And although many struggles remained to be fought before 
the legal freedom of Trade Unionism was fully secured, no 
overt attempt has since been made to render illegal this 
first condition of Trade Union action. 2 

It is a suggestive feature of this, as of other great re- 
forms, that the men whose faith in its principle, and whose 
indefatigable industry and resolution carried it through, 
were the only ones who proved altogether mistaken as to 
its practical consequences. If we read the lesson of the 
century aright, the manufacturer was not wholly wrong 
when he protested that liberty of combination must make 
the workers the ultimate authority in industry, although his 
narrow fear as to the driving away of capital and commercial 
skill and the reduction of the nation to a dead level of 
anarchic pauperism were entirely contradicted by subse- 
quent developments. And the workman, to whom liberty 
to combine opened up vistas of indefinite advancement of 

1 Home Office Papers, letter of January 3, 1832 (H.O. 40 30). 

2 It is pleasant to record that some of the workmen expressed their 
gratitude for Francis Place's indefatigable services. " Soon after the 
proceedings in 1825 were closed," he writes, " the seamen of the Tyne and 
Wear sent me a handsome silver vase, paid for by a penny-a-week sub- 
scription ; and the cutlers of Sheffield sent me an incomparable set of 
knives and forks in a case " (Place MSS. 27798 66). 

The Result 109 

his class at the expense of his oppressors, was, we now see, 
looking rightly forward, though he, too, greatly miscalcu- 
lated the distance before him, and overlooked many arduous 
stages of the journey. But what is to be said of the fore- 
casts of Place and the Philosophic Radicals ? " Combina- 
tions," writes Place to Sir Francis Burdett in 1825, " will 
soon cease to exist. Men have been kept together for long 
periods only by the oppressions of the laws ; these being 
repealed, combinations will lose the matter which cements 
them into masses, and they will fall to pieces. All will be 
as orderly as even a Quaker could desire. ... He knows 
nothing of the working people who can suppose that, when 
left at liberty to act for themselves without being driven 
into permanent associations by the oppression of the laws, 
they will continue to contribute money for distant and 
doubtful experiments, for uncertain and precarious benefits. 
If let alone, combinations excepting now and then, and 
for particular purposes under peculiar circumstances will 
cease to exist." l 

It is pleasant to feel that Place was right in regarding 
the repeal as beneficial and worthy of his best efforts in 
its support ; but in every less general respect he and his 
allies were as wrong as it was possible for them to be. The 
first disappointment, however, came to the workmen. Over 
and over again they had found their demands for higher *\ 
wages parried only by the employers' resort to the law, and 
they now saw the way clear before them for an organised 
attack upon their masters' profits. Trades which had not 
vyet enjoyed permanent combinations began to organise in 
*the expectation of raising their wages- to the level of those 
(of their more fortunate brethren. The Sheffield shop- 
assistants combined to petition for early closing. 2 The 
cotton-weavers of Lancashire met in delegate meeting at 
Manchester in August 1824 to establish a permanent 
organisation to prevent reductions in prices and to secure 

1 June 25, 1825. Ibid. 27798 57. 
z Sheffield Iris, September 27, 1825. 

no The Struggle for Existence 

a uniform wage, the notice stating that it was by their 
secret combinations that the tailors, joiners, and spinners 
had succeeded in keeping up wages. 1 In the same month 
the Manchester dyers turned out for an advance, and paraded 
the streets, which they had placarded with their proposals. 2 
The Glasgow calender-men struck for a regular twelve hours' 
day, and carried their point. The success of the ship- 
wrights on the north-east coast 3 induced the London ship- 
wrights to convert their " Committee for conducting the 
Business in the North " into the " Shipwrights' Provident 
Union of the Port of London," which existed continuously 
until its absorption in the twentieth century by the 
national society dominating the trade. 

" Such is the rage for union societies," reports the 
Sheffield Iris of July 12, 1825, " that the sea apprentices in 
Sunderland have actually had regular meetings every day 
/ last week on the moor, and have resolved not to go on board 
their ships unless the owners will allow them tea and sugar." 
Local trade clubs expanded, like the Manchester Steam- 
Engine Makers' Society, into national organisations. In 
other cases corresponding clubs developed into federal 
bodies. The object in all these cases was the same. The 
preamble to the first rules of the Friendly Society of Opera- 
tive House Carpenters and Joiners of Great Britain, which 
was established by a delegate meeting in London in 1827, 
states that, " for the amelioration of the evils attendant on 
our trade, and the advancement of the rights and privileges 
of labour," it was considered " absolutely necessary that a 
firm compact of interests should exist between the whole of 
the operative carpenters and joiners throughout the United 
Kingdom of Great Britain." 4 

1 Handbill preserved in Place MSS. 27803 255. 

8 Manchester Guardian, August 7, 1824 ; see also On Combinations of 
Trades (1830). 

8 This is expressly stated in the preamble to the rules adopted at the 
meeting on August 16, 1824, and recorded in the first minute-book. 

4 This society afterwards developed into the existing General Union 
of Carpenters and Joiners of Great Britain. 

A Commercial Slump in 

Nor was it only in the multiplication of trade societies 

that the expansion showed itself. A committee of delegates 

from the London trades meeting during the summer of 

< 1825 set on foot the Trades Newspaper and Mechanics' 

\ Weekly Journal, a sevenpenny stamped paper, with the 

\ motto, " They helped every one his neighbour, and every 

one said to his brother, ' Be of good cheer.' " * A vigorous 

C" attempt was made to promote Trade Union organisation 

^ in all industries, and to bring to bear a body of instructed */ 

I working-class opinion upon the political situation of the 

Uay. 2 

The high hopes of which all this exultant activity was 
the symptom were soon rudely dashed. The year 1825 
S closed with a financial panic and widespread commercial V 

disaster. The four years that followed were years of con- 
fraction and distress. Hundreds of thousands of workmen 
in all trades lost their employment, and wages were reduced 
all round. In many manufacturing districts the operatives 
were kept from starvation only by public subscriptions. 3 
Strikes under these circumstances ended invariably in 
disaster. A notable stand made by the Bradford wool- 
combers and weavers in 1825 resulted in complete defeat 
and the break-up of the Union. 4 

During the greater part of the following year all Lanca- 
shire was convulsed by incessant strikes of coal-miners and 
textile workers against the repeated reductions of wages to 

1 Two rival journals, The Journeyman's and Artisan's London and 
Provincial Chronicle, and The Mechanic's Newspaper and Trade Journal, 
were also started, but soon expired. 

2 The Trades Newspaper was managed by a committee of eleven 
delegates from different trades, of which John Cast was chairman, and was 
edited, at first by Mr. Baines, son of the proprietor of the Leeds Mercury, 
and afterwards by a Mr. Anderson. The Laws and Regulations of the 
Trades Newspaper (1825, 12 pp.) are preserved in the Place MSS. 27803 414. 
Tne issues from July 17, 1825, to its amalgamation with The Trades Free 
Press in 1828, are in the British Museum. 

8 232,000 was raised by one committee alone between 1826 and 1829. 
See Report of the Committee appointed at a Public Meeting at the City oj 
London Tavern. May 2, 1826, to relieve the Manufacturers, by W. H. Hyett, 

* Wool and Wool-combing, by Burnley, p. 169. 

112 The Struggle for Existence 

which the employers resorted strikes which were marred by 
- serious disorder, the destruction of many hundreds of looms, 
and severe repression by the troops. 1 

At Kidderminster, three years later, practically the whole 
trade of the town was brought to a standstill by the carpet- 
weavers' six months' resistance to a reduction of 17 per 
cent in their wages 2 a resistance in which the operatives 
received the sympathy and support of many who did not 
belong to their class. In the same year the silk-weavers of 
London and other towns maintained an embittered resist- 
ance to a further cut at wages. 3 The emancipated com- 
binations were no more able to resist reductions than the 
secret ones had been, and in some instances the workmen 
* again resorted to violence and machine-breaking. 

For a moment the repeal seemed, after all, to have done 
nothing but prove the futility of mere sectional combina- 
tion, and the working men turned back again from Trade 
Union action to the larger aims and wider character of the 
Radical and Socialistic agitations of the time, with which, 
from 1829 to 1842, the Trade Union Movement became 
inextricably entangled. This is the phase which furnishes 
the theme of the following chapter. 

1 Home Office Papers, 40 20, 21, etc. ; Annual Register, 1826, pp. 63, 
70, in, 128 ; Walpole's History of England, vol. ii. p. 141. 

* A Letter to the Carpet Manufacturers of Kidderminster, by the Rev. 
H. Price (1828, 16 pp.) ; A Letter to the Rev. H. Price, upon the Tendency of 
Certain Publications of his, by Oppidanus, 1828 ; and A Verbatim Report 
of the Trial of the Rev. Humphrey Price upon a Criminal Information by the 
Kidderminster Carpet Manufacturers for Alleged Inflammatory Publications 
during the Turn-out of the Weavers, 1829. 

8 Resolutions of the Meeting of Journeymen Broad Silk Weavers at 
Spitalfields, April 16, 1829 ; in Home Office Papers, 40 23, 24. See, for 
this period, Cunningham's Growth of English Industry and Commerce in 
Modern Times, 1903, pp. 759-762 ; and also The Skilled Labourer, by 
J. L. and B. Hammond, 1919, published too late for us to make use of its 
interesting descriptions of the principal trades. 



So far we have been mainly concerned with societies formed 
in particular trades, nearly always confined to particular 
localities, and known as institutions, associations, trade 
clubs, trade societies, unions, and union societies. We have 
by anticipation applied the term Trade Union to them in 
its modern sense ; but in no case that we have discovered 
did they call themselves so. It is in the leading articles of 
the newspapers of 1830-4 that we first come upon references 
to some great Power of Darkness vaguely described as " the 
Trades Union." We find, moreover, that there was in that 
day, as there has been repeatedly since, an Old Unionism 
and a New Unionism, and that " the Trades Union " repre- 
sented the New Unionism, and the trade club, or Trade 
Union, as we have called it, the Old. The distinction be- 
tween a Trade Union and a Trades Union is exactly that 
which the names imply. A Trade Union is a combination 
of the members of one trade ; a Trades Union is a combina- 
tion of different trades. " The Trades Union," the bug- 
bear of the Times in 1834, means the ideal at which the 
Trades Unionists aimed : that is, a complete union of all 
the workers in the country in a single national Trades 
Union. The peculiar significance of Trades Union as dis- 
tinguished from Trade Union must be carefully borne, in 


H4 The Revolutionary Period 

mind throughout this chapter, as it has passed out of use 
and occurs now only as a literary blunder. Our present 
unions of workers in different though related trades are 
usually called Amalgamations or Federations. But both 
Amalgamations and Federations, being definitely limited 
to similar or related and interdependent trades, are in idea 
essentially Trade Unions. The distinctive connotation of 
the term Trades Union was the ideal of complete solidarity 
of all wage- workers in " One Big Union " that is to say, 
a single " universal " organisation. It is the attempt, 
on the part of the Trade Union leaders, to form not only 
national societies of particular trades, but also to include 
all manual workers in one comprehensive organisation, 
that constitutes the New Unionism of 1829-34. x 

We are not altogether without information as to the 
genesis of the idea. The first attempt at a General Trades 
Union of which we have any record is that of the " Phil- 
anthropic Society " or " Philanthropic Hercules " of 1818. 
This we hear of almost simultaneously in Manchester, the 
Potteries and London, though it seems to have originated 
in the first-named town. A meeting of workmen of various 
trades, rleld at Manchester in August 1818, convinced of 
the impotence of isolated Trade Clubs, sought to establish 
a society on a federal basis, each constituent trade raising 
its own funds and separately moving for advances or 
resisting reductions ; but pledged first to consult the com- 

1 In a manuscript essay on the different forms of association, entitled 
" Trades Unions condemned, Trade Clubs justified," Place gives us the 
distinction between the two. " A trade society," he says, " that is, a 
club consisting of the journeymen in any one trade which does not form 
part of a union of several trades, which does not appoint delegates to 
meet other delegates, is a very different thing from a Trades Union, even 
though it may call itself a union. Trades Unions are those in which 
several trades, or portions of several trades, in the same line of business 
or in different callings, are confederated by means of delegates." Place 
often refers to this distinction between the Trade Clubs, which were, 
according to his view, " very valuable institutions," and the " Trades 
Unions," or " associations of several or many trades in one combination,' 
which he regarded as " very mischievous associations." William Lovett, 
too, watching the same transformation, makes, in a letter published in 
the Poor Man's Guardian of August 30, 1834, exactly the same distinction. 

" One Big Union " 115 

mittee and the other trades, and promised the support 
of all, both in approved trade movements and in case of 
legal prosecution or oppression. A committee of eleven 
was to be chosen by ballot, one-third retiring monthly by 
rotation ; and was to be assisted by a similar local organi- 
sation in each town. 1 How far the " General Union," as 
the " Philanthropic Society " seems also to have been called, 
got under way in Lancashire or Staffordshire remains 
uncertain ; but in London the idea was taken up by one 
of the ablest Trade Unionists of the time the shipwright 
John Gast, whom we have already mentioned as an ally of 
Francis Place, who became president and called upon " the 
general body of mechanics " to subscribe a penny per 
week to a central fund for the defence of their common 
interests. 2 

Whether anything came of the attempts at a General 
Union in 1818-19 we have not discovered, but in all proba- 
bility the project immediately failed. Seven years later 
a similar effort met with no greater success. " In 1826," 
as we incidentally learn from a subsequent Labour journal, 3 
" a Trades Union was formed in Manchester, which extended 
slightly to some of the surrounding districts, and embraced 
several- trades in each ; but it expired before it was so much 
as known to a large majority of the operatives in the neigh- 

What was aimed at is clear enough. It was being 
recommended to the workmen by some of their intellectual 
advisers. An able pamphlet of 1827 tells them that 
" Against the competition of the underpaid of surrounding 
trades, the ready remedy is a central union of all the general 

1 See the reports to the Home Secretary (Home Office Papers, 42 179, 
180, 181, 182) ; The Town Labourer (by J. L. and B. Hammond, 1917), 
pp. 306-11. 

* See the " Articles of the Philanthropic Hercules, for the Mutual 
Support of the Labouring Mechanics," dated December 24, 1818, which 
Gast contributed to the Gorgon. Cast's preliminary address appears in 
the issue for December 5, 1818, and in that of January 29, 1819, the 
society is described as established (Place MSS. 27899 143). 

8 The Herald of the Rights of Industry (Manchester, April 5, 1834). 

n6 The Revolutionary Period 

unions of all the trades of the country. The remuneration 
of all the different branches of artisans and mechanics in 
the country might then be fixed at those rates which would 
leave such an equalised remuneration to all as would take 
away any temptation from those in one branch to transfer 
their skill in order to undersell the labour of the well- 
remunerated in another branch : the Central Union fund 
being always ready to assist the unemployed in any par- 
ticular branch, when their own local and general funds 
were exhausted ; provided always their claims to support 
were by the Central Union deemed to be just." 1 

Experience seems to show that national organisation 
of particular trades must precede the formation of any 
General Trades Union ; and it was in this way that the 
project now took form. In 1829 we see renewed attempts 
at national organisation, in which the Lancashire and 
Yorkshire textile and building operatives were pioneers. 
The year 1829, closing the long depression of trade which 
began in the autumn of 1825, after the repeal of the Com- 
bination Laws, witnessed the establishment of important 
national Unions in both industries, but that of the Cotton- 
spinners claims precedence in respect of its more rapic 

The Cotton-spinners' trade clubs of Lancashire dal 
apparently from 1792, and they spread, within a gene 
tion, to thirty or forty towns, remaining always strictl] 
local organisations. In the early years of the nineteentl 
century attempts had been made by the Glasgow spinnc 
to unite the Lancashire and Scottish organisations in 
national association ; but these attempts had not resulte 
in more than temporary alliances in particular emergence 
The rapid improvement of spinning machinery, and tl 
enterprise of the Lancashire millowners, were, at the dal 
of the repeal of the Combination Laws, shifting the centi 

1 Labour Rewarded : The Claims of Labour and Capital : How to secure 
Labour the Whole Product of its Exertions, by One of the Idle Classes [Williai 
Thompson], 1827 ; see The Irish Labour Movement, by W. P. Ryan. 

John Doherty 117 

of the trade from Glasgow to Manchester ; and it was the 
Lancashire Cotton-spinners who now took the lead in trade 
matters. The failure of a disastrous six months' strike 
in 1829 at Hyde, near Manchester, led to the conviction 
that no local Union could succeed against a combination 
of employers ; and the spinners' societies of England, 
Scotland, and Ireland were therefore invited to send delegates 
to a conference to be held at Ramsay, in the Isle of Man, 
in the month of December 1829. 

This delegate meeting, of which there is an excellent 
report, 1 lasted for nearly a week. The proceedings were of 
a remarkably temperate character, the discussions turning 
chiefly on the relative advantages of one supreme executive 
to be established at Manchester, and three co-equal national 
executives for England, Scotland, and Ireland. No secrecy 
was attempted. John Doherty, 2 secretary and leader of 

1 A Report of the Proceedings of the Meeting of Cotton-spinners at Ramsay, 
etc. (Manchester, 1829, 56 pages) ; Copy of Resolutions of the Delegates 
from the Operative Cotton- spinners who met at the Isle of Man (Manchester, 
1830), in Home Office Papers, 40 27. 

* John Doherty, described by Place as a somewhat hot-headed Roman 
Catholic really one of the acutest thinkers and stoutest leaders among 
the workmen of his time was born in Ireland in 1799, and went to work 
in a cotton-mill at Larne, Co. Antrim, at the age of ten. In 1816 he 
migrated to Manchester, where he quickly became one of the leading 
Trade Unionists, and secretary to the local Cotton-spinners' Society. We 
find him, for instance, taking a prominent part in the agitation against 
the proposed re-enactment of the Combination Laws in 1825. Whether 
he was concerned in the Philanthropic Society or General Union of 1818 
or 1826 we do not know. In 1829 he organised the great strike of the 
Hyde spinners against a reduction of rates, and became, as described in 
the text, successively General Secretary to the Federation of Spinners' 
Societies, and to the National Association for the Protection of Labour, 
in which office he is reported, probably inaccurately, to have received the 
then enormous salary of ^600 a year. We naturally find him the object 
of great suspicion by the Government, but no charge seems ever to have 
been brought against him (Home Office Papers, 40 26, 27). The 
articles in the Voice of the People and the Poor Man's Advocate, which are 
evidently from his pen, show him to have been a man of wide informa- 
tion, great natural shrewdness, and far-reaching aims. His idea was that 
all the local and district Unions were to be federated in a national organisa- 
tion for the sole purpose of dealing with trade matters, and that they should ./ 
also be federated in a National Association for obtaining political reforms. 
In 1832, during the Reform crisis, Place describes him as advising the 
working classes to use the occasion for a social revolution. He sub- 

n8 The Revolutionary Period 

the Manchester Cotton-spinners, advocated a central execu- 
tive ; while Thomas Foster (a man of independent means 
who attended the conference at his own expense) favoured 
a scheme of home rule. Eventually a " Grand General 
Union of the United Kingdom " was established, subject 
to an annual delegate meeting and three national com- 
mittees. The union was to include all male spinners and 
piecers, the women and girls being urged to form separate 
organisations, which were to receive all the aid of the whole 
confederation in supporting them to obtain " men's prices." 
The union was to promote local action for a further legis- 
lative restriction of the hours of labour, to apply to all 
persons under 21 years of age. Its income consisted of a 
contribution of a penny per week per member, to be levied 
in addition to the contribution to the local society. Doherty 
was general secretary, and Foster and a certain Patrick 
McGowan were appointed to organise the spinners through- 
out the United Kingdom. 

The Boroughreeve and Constables of Manchester, 01 
May 26, 1830, wrote in alarm to Sir Robert Peel : " Th( 
combination of workmen, long acknowledged a great evil, 
and one most difficult to counteract, has recently assume 
so formidable and systematic a shape in this district 
we feel it our duty to lay before you some of its most alarming 
features. ... A committee of delegates from the operative 
spinners of the three Kingdoms have established an annual 
assembly in the Isle of Man to direct the proceedings of the 
general body towards their employers, the orders for which 
they promulgate to their respective districts and sub- 
committees. To these orders the most implicit deference 

sequently acted as secretary to an association of operatives and masters 
established to enforce the Factory Acts, and was one of Lord Shaftesbury's 
most strenuous supporters. In 1838, when he had become a printer and 
bookseller in Manchester, he gave evidence before the Select Commitl 
on Combinations of Workmen, in which he described the spinners' < 
tions and strikes. There is a pamphlet by him in the Goldsmiths' '. 
at the University of London, entitled A Letter to the Members of the Natic 
Association for the Protection of Labour (Manchester, 1831). 

The Cotton-spinners 119 

is shown ; and a weekly levy or rent of one penny per head 
on each operative is cheerfully paid. This produces a large 
sum, and is a powerful engine, and principally to support 
those who have turned out against their employers, 
agreeable to the orders of the committee, at the rate 
of ten shillings per week for each person. The plan of 
a general turnout having been found to be impolitic, 
they have employed it in detail, against particular 
individuals or districts, who, attacked thus singly, are 
frequently compelled to submit to their terms rather 
than to the ruin which would ensue to many by allowing 
their machinery (in which their whole capital is invested) 
to stand idle/' 1 

Whether this Cotton-spinners' Federation, as we should 
call it, became really representative of the three kingdoms 
does not appear. A second general delegate meeting was 
held at Manchester in December 1830, which intervened 
in the great spinners' strike then in progress at Ashton- 
under-Lyne. At this conference the constitution of 1829 
was re-enacted with some alterations. The three national 
executives were apparently replaced by an executive council 
of three members elected by the Manchester Society, to be 
reinforced at its monthly meetings by two delegates chosen 
in turn by each of the neighbouring districts. A general 
delegate meeting seems also to have been held, attended by 
one delegate from each of the couple of scores of towns in 
which there were local clubs. 2 Foster was appointed general 
secretary ; and a committee was ordered to draw up a 
general list of prices, for which purpose one member in each 
mill was directed to send up a copy of the list by which he 
was paid. Although another delegate meeting of this 
" Grand General Union " was fixed for Whit Monday 1831 
at Liverpool, no further record of its existence can be traced. 
It is probable that the attempt to include Scotland and 
Ireland proved a failure, and that the union had dwindled 

1 Home Office Papers, 40 27. 
1 Ibid., December 3, 1830, 40 26. 

I2O The Revolutionary Period 

into a federation of Lancashire societies, mainly preoccu- 
pied in securing a legislative restriction of the hours of 
labour. 1 

But the National Union of Cotton-spinners prepared 
the way for the more ambitious project of the Trades 
Union. Doherty, who seems to have resigned his official 
connection with the Cotton-spinners' Union, conceived the 
idea of a National Association, not of one trade alone, but 
of all classes of wage-earners. Already in May 1829 we 
find him, as Secretary of the Manchester Cotton-spinners, 
writing to acknowledge a gift of ten pounds from the Liver- 
pool Sailmakers, and expressing " a hope that our joint 
efforts may eventually lead to a Grand General Union of 
all trades throughout the United Kingdom." 2 At his 
instigation a meeting of delegates from twenty organised 
trades was held at Manchester in February 1830, which 
ended in the establishment, five months later, of the 
National Association for the Protection of Labour. The 
express object of this society was to resist reductions, but 
not to strike for advances. In an eloquent address to 
working men of all trades, the new Association appealed to 
them to unite for their own protection and in order to 
maintain " the harmony of society " which is destroyed by 
their subjection. How is it, the Association asks, that 
whilst everything else increases knowledge, wealth, civil 
and religious liberty, churches, madhouses, and prisons the 
circumstances of the working man become ever worse ? 
" He, the sole producer of food and raiment, is, it appears, 
destined to sink whilst others rise." To prevent this evil 

1 Foster died in 1831, and McGowan settled at Glasgow. " Almost 
every spinning district," writes the Poor Man's Advocate of June 23, 1832, 
" of any consequence, was enrolled in the Union. The power of the 
Union, of course, increased with its members, and a number of the worst- 
paying employers were compelled to advance the wages of the spinners to 
something like the standard rate. . . . The Union, however, which Mr. 
McGowan had mainly contributed to mature, has since, from distrust or 
weariness, sunk into comparative insignificance." 

2 The letter is preserved in the MS. " Contribution Book " of the 
Liverpool Sailmakers' Friendly Association, established 1817. 

The National Association 121 

the Association is formed. 1 Its constitution appears to 
have been largely borrowed from that of the contemporary 
Cotton-spinners, which it resembled in being a combination, 
not of directly enlisted individuals, but of existing separate 
societies, each of which paid an entrance fee of a pound, 
together with a shilling for each of its members, and con- 
tributed at the rate of a penny per week per head of its 
membership. Doherty was the first secretary, and the 
Association appears very soon to have enrolled about 150 
separate Unions, mostly in Lancashire, Cheshire, Derby, 
Nottingham, and Leicester. The trades which joined were 
mainly connected with the various textile industries the 
cotton-spinners, hosiery-workers, calico-printers, and silk- 
weavers taking a leading part. The Association also 
included numerous societies of mechanics, moulders, black- 
smiths, and many miscellaneous trades. The building 
trades were scarcely represented a fact to be accounted 
for by the contemporary existence of the Builders' Union 
hereafter described. The list 2 of the receipts of the Associa- 
tion for the first nine months of its existence includes pay- 
ments amounting to 1866, a sum which indicates a member- 
ship of between 10,000 and 20,000, spread over the five 
counties already mentioned. A vigorous propaganda was 
carried on throughout the northern and midland counties 
by its officials, who succeeded in establishing a weekly 
paper, the United Trades Co-operative Journal, which was 
presently brought to an end by the intervention of the 
Commissioners of Stamps, who insisted on each number 
bearing a fourpenny stamp. 3 Undeterred by this failure, 
the committee undertook the more serious task of starting 
a sevenpenny stamped weekly, and requested Francis Place 

1 Address of the National Association for the Protection of Labour to 
the Workmen of the United Kingdom (4 pp. 1830), in Home Office Papers, 

2 Given as Appendix to the pamphlet On Combination of Trades 
(1830). Compare Wade's History of the Middle and Working Classes 
(1834), p. 277. 

8 Thirty-one numbers, extending from March 6 to October 2, 1830, 
are in the Manchester Public Library (620 B). 

122 The Revolutionary Period 

to become the treasurer of an accumulated fund. " The 
subscription," writes Place to John Cam Hobhouse, Decem- 
ber 5, 1830, " extends from Birmingham to the Clyde ; the 
committee sits at Manchester ; and the money collected 
amounts to about 3000, and will, they tell me, shortly be 
as much as 5000, with which sum, when raised, they pro- 
pose to commence a weekly newspaper to be called the 
Voice of the People." Accordingly in January 1831 appeared 
the first number of what proved to be an excellent weekly 
journal, the object of which was declared to be " to unite 
the productive classes of the community in one common 
bond of union." Besides full weekly reports of the com- 
mittee meetings of the National Association at Manchester 
and Nottingham, this newspaper, ably edited by John 
Doherty, gave great attention to Radical politics, including 
the Repeal of the Union with Ireland, and the progress of 
revolution on the Continent. 1 

From the reports published in the Voice of the People 
we gather that the first important action of the Association 
was in connection with the almost continuous strikes of the 
cotton-spinners at Ashton-under-Lyne, which flamed up 
into a sustained conflict on a large scale, during which 
Ashton, a young millowner, was murdered by some unknown 
person in the winter of 1830-31, in resistance to a new list 
of prices arbitrarily imposed by the Association of Master 
Spinners in Ashton, Dukinfield, and Stalybridge. 2 Con- 
siderable sums were raised by way of levy for the support 
of the strike, the Nottingham trades subscribing liberally. 
But the Association soon experienced a check. In Feb- 
ruary 1831 a new secretary decamped with 100. This 
led a delegate meeting at Nottingham, in April 1831, to 
decree that each Union should retain in hand the money 
contributed by its own members. But the usual failings 
of unions of various trades quickly showed themselves. 

1 The numbers from January to September 1831 are in the British 
Museum. See Place's letter in Westminster Review (1831), p. 243. 
a Home Office Papers, 40 26, 27. 

The Voice of the People 123 

The refusal of the Lancashire branches to support the 
great Nottingham strike which immediately ensued led 
to the defection of the Nottingham members. Neverthe- 
less the Association was spreading over new ground. We 
hear of delegates from Lancashire inducing thousands of 
colliers in Derbyshire to join, whilst other trades, and even 
the agricultural labourers, were talking about it. 1 At the end 
of April a delegate meeting at Bolton, representing nine 
thousand coalminers of Staffordshire, Yorkshire, Cheshire, 
and Wales, resolved to join. The Belfast trades applied 
for affiliation. In Leeds nine thousand members were 
enrolled, chiefly among the woollen-workers. Missionaries 
were sent to organise the Staffordshire potters ; and a 
National Potters' Union, extending throughout the country, 
was established and affiliated. All this activity lends a 
certain credibility to the assertion, made in various quarters, 
that the Association numbered one hundred thousand 
members, and that the Voice of the People, published at 
7d. weekly, enjoyed the then enormous circulation of thirty 

Here at last we have substance given to the formidable 
idea of " the Trades Union." It was soon worked up by 
the newspapers to a pitch at which it alarmed the employers, 
dismally excited the imaginations of the middle class, and 
compelled the attention of the Government. But there 
was no cause for apprehension. Lack of funds made the 
Association little more than a name. Practically no trade 
action is reported in such numbers of its organ as are still 
extant. The business of the Manchester Committee seems 
to have been confined to the promotion of the " Short Time 
Bill." On April 23, 1831, at the general meeting of the 
Association, then designated the Lancashire Trades Unions, 
it was resolved to prepare petitions in favour of extending 
this measure to all trades and all classes of workers. Active 
support was given in the meantime to Mr. Sadler's Factory 
Bill. Towards the end of the year we suddenly lose all 

1 Home Office Papers. April 8, 1831, 44 25. 

124 The Revolutionary Period 

trace of the National Association for the Protection of 
Labour, as far as Manchester is concerned. " After it had 
extended about a hundred miles round this town," writes 
a working-class newspaper of 1832, " a fatality came upon 
it that almost threatened its extinction. . . . But though it 
declined in Manchester it spread and flourished in other 
places ; and we rejoice to say that the resolute example set 
by Yorkshire and other places is likely once more to revive 
the drooping energies of those trades who had the honour 
of originating and establishing the Association." * 

What the fatality was that extinguished the Association in 
Manchester is not stated ; but Doherty, to whose organising 
ability its initial success had been due, evidently quarrelled 
with the executive committee, and the Voice of the People 
ceased to appear. In its place we find Doherty issuing, 
from January 1832, the Poor Man's Advocate, and vainly 
striving, in face of the " spirit " of " jealousy and faction," 
to build up the Yorkshire branches of the Association into 
a national organisation, with its headquarters in London. 
After the middle of 1832 we hear no more, either of the 
Association itself or of Doherty 's more ambitious projects 
concerning it. 2 

The place of the National Association was soon filled 
by other contemporary general trade societies, of which 
the first and most important was the Builders' Union, or 

1 Union Pilot and Co-operative Intelligencer t March 24, 1832 (Man- 
chester Public Library, 640 E). 

8 Meanwhile the coalminers of Northumberland and Durham, under 
the leadership of " Tommy Hepburn," an organiser of remarkable ability, 
had formed their first strong Union in 1830, which for two years kept 
the two counties in a state of excitement. Strikes and riotings in 1831 
and 1832 caused the troops to be called out : marines were sent from 
Portsmouth, and squadrons of cavalry scoured the country. After six 
months' struggle in 1832 the Union collapsed, and the men submitted. 
See Home Office Papers for these years, 40 31, 32, &c. ; Sykes' Locat 
Records of Northumberland, &c., vol. ii. pp. 293, 353 ; Fynes' Miners of 
Northumberland and Durham (Blyth, 1873), chaps, iv. v. vi. ; An Earnest 
A ddress and Urgent Appeal to the People of England in behalf of the Oppressed 
and Suffering Pitmen of the Counties of Northumberland and Durham (by 
W. Scott, Newcastle, 1831) ; History and Description of Fossil Fuel, etc. 
(by John Holland, 1835), pp. 298-304. 

The Builders Union 125 

the General Trades Union, as it was sometimes termed. 
It consisted of the separate organisations of the seven 
building trades, viz, joiners, masons, bricklayers, plasterers, 
plumbers, painters, and builders' labourers, and is, so far 
as we know, the solitary example, prior to the present 
century, in the history of those trades of a federal union 
embracing all classes of building operatives, and purporting 
to extend over the whole country. 1 

The Grand Rules of the Builders' Union set forth an 
elaborate constitution in which it was attempted to com- 
bine a local and trade autonomy of separate lodges with a 
centralised authority for defensive and aggressive purposes. 
The rules inform us that " the object of this society shall 
be to advance and equalise the price of labour in every 
branch of the trade we admit into this society." Each 
lodge shall be " governed by its own password and sign, 
masons to themselves, and joiners to themselves, and so 
on ; " and it is ordered that " no lodge be opened by any 

1 It is not clear whether this scheme was initiated by carpenters or 
masons. The carpenters and joiners are distinguished among the build- 
ing trades for the antiquity of their local trade clubs, which are known 
to have existed in London as far back as 1799. A national organisation 
was established in London in July 1827, called the Friendly Society of 
Operative Carpenters and Joiners, which still survives under the title of 
the " General Union." MS. records in the office of the latter show that 
this federation had 938 members in 1832, rising to 3691 in 1833, and to 
6774 in 1834, a total not paralleled until 1865. This rapid increase 
marks the general upheaval of these years. But this Society did not 
throw in its lot with the Builders' Union until 1833. On the other hand, 
the existing Operative Stonemasons' Friendly Society, which dates its 
separate existence from 1834, but which certainly existed in some form 
from 1832, has among its archives what appear to be the original MS. 
rules and initiation rites of its predecessor, the Builders' Union ; and in 
these documents the masons figure as the foremost members. Moreover, 
these rules and rites closely resemble those of contemporary unions among 
the Yorkshire woollen-workers ; and an independent tradition fixes the 
parent lodge of the Masons' Society at the great woollen centre of Hudders- 
field, whereas the Friendly Society of Carpenters and Joiners, founded in 
London, had its headquarters at Leicester. But however this may be, 
the constitution and ceremonies described in these documents owe their 
significance to the fact that they are nearly identical with those adopted 
by many of the national Unions of the period, and were largely adopted 
by the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union of 1834. 

126 The Revolutionary Period 

other lodge that is not the same trade of that lodge that 
opens them, that masons open masons, and joiners open 
joiners, and so on ; " moreover, " no other member [is] to 
visit a lodge that is not the same trade unless he is par- 
ticularly requested." Each trade had its own bye-laws; 
but these were subject to the general rules adopted at an 
annual delegate meeting. This annual conference of the 
" Grand Lodge Delegates/' better known as the " Builders' 
Parliament," consisted of one representative of each lodge, 
and was the supreme legislative authority, altering rules, 
deciding on general questions of policy, and electing the pre- 
sident and other officials. The local lodges, though directly 
represented at the annual meetings, had had apparently 
little connection in the interim with the seat of govern- 
ment. The society was divided into geographical dis- 
tricts, the lodges in each district sending delegates to 
quarterly district meetings, which elected a grand master, 
deputy grand master, and corresponding secretary for the 
district, and decided which should be the " divisional 
lodge," or district executive centre. These divisional 
lodges or provincial centres were, according to the rules, 
to serve in turn as the grand lodge or executive centre for 
the whole society. Whether the members of the general 
committee were chosen by the general lodge or by the whole 
society is not clear ; but they formed, with the president 
and general corresponding secretary, the national execu- 
tive. The expenses of this executive and of the annual 
delegate meeting were levied on the whole society, each 
lodge sending monthly returns of its members and a 
summary of its finances to the general secretary. The 
main business of the national executive was to determine 
the trade policy of the Associations, and to grant or with- 
hold permission to strike. As no mention is made of 
friendly benefits, we may conclude that the Builders' 
Union, like most of the national or general Unions of this 
militant time, confined itself exclusively to defending its 
members against their employers. 

Trade Union Ritual 127 

The operative builders did not rest content with an 
elaborate constitution and code. There was also a ritual. 
The Stonemasons' Society has preserved among its records 
a MS. copy of a " Making Parts Book," ordered to be 
used by all lodges of the Builders' Union on the admission 
of members. Under the Combination Laws oaths of 
secrecy and obedience were customary in the more secret 
and turbulent Trade Unions, notably that of the Glasgow 
Cotton-spinners and the Northumberland Miners. The 
custom survived the repeal ; and admission to the Builders' 
Union involved a lengthy ceremony conducted by the 
officers of the lodge the " outside and inside tylers," 
the " warden," the " president," " secretary," and " prin- 
cipal conductor " and taken part in by the candidates 
and the members of the lodge. Besides the opening prayer, 
and religious hymns sung at intervals, these " initiation 
parts " consisted of questions and responses by the dramatis 
persona in quaint doggerel, and were brought to a close 
by the new members taking a solemn oath of loyalty and 
secrecy. Officers clothed in surplices, inner chambers 
into which the candidates were admitted blindfolded, a 
skeleton, drawn sword, battle-axes, and other mystic 
" properties " enhanced the sensational solemnity of this 
fantastic performance. 1 Ceremonies of this kind, including 

1 A similar ritual is printed in Character, Objects, and Effects of Trades 
Unions (1834), as used by the Woolcombers' Union. Probably the Builders' 
Union copied their ritual from some union of woollen- workers. The 
Stonemasons' MS. contains, like the copy printed in this pamphlet, a 
solemn reference to " King Edward the Third," who was regarded as the 
great benefactor of the English wool trade, but whose connection with 
the building trade is not obvious. In a later printed edition of The 
Initiating Parts of the Friendly Society of Operative Masons, dated Birming- 
ham, 1834, his name is omitted, and that of Solomon substituted, ap- 
parently in memory of the Freemasons' assumed origin at the building 
of the Temple at Jerusalem. 

The actual origin of this initiation ceremony is not certainly known. 
John Tester, who had been a leader of the Bradford Woolcombers in 
1825, afterwards turned against the Unions, and published, in the Leeds 
Mercury of June and July 1834, a series of letters denouncing the Leeds 
Clothiers' Union. In these he states that " the mode of initiation was the 
same as practised for years before by the flannel-weavers of Rochdale, 
with a party of whom the thing, in the shape it then wore, had at first 

128 The Revolutionary Period 

what were described to the Home Office as " oaths ef a most 
execrable nature," 1 were adopted by all the national and 
general Unions of the time : thus we find items for " washing 
surplices " appearing in the accounts of various lodges of 
contemporary societies. Although in the majority of 
cases the ritual was no doubt as harmless as that of the 
Freemasons or the Oddfellows, yet the excitement and 
sensation of the proceedings may have predisposed light- 
headed fanatical members, in times of industrial conflict, 
to violent acts in the interest of the Association. At all 
events, the references to its mock terrors in the capitalist 
press seem to have effectually scared the governing classes. 
The first years of the Builders' Union, apparently, were 
devoted to organisation. During 1832 it rapidly spread 
through the Lancashire and Midland towns ; and at the 
beginning of the following year a combined attack was 
made upon the Liverpool employers. The ostensible 
grievance of the men was the interference of the " con- 
tractor," who, supplanting the master mason, master 
carpenter, etc., undertook the management of all building 
operations. A placard issued by the Liverpool Painters 
announces that they have joined " the General Union of 
the Artisans employed in the process of building," in order 
to put down " that baneful, unjust, and ruinous system j 

originated. ... A great part of the ceremony, . . . particularly the death j 
scene, was taken from the ceremonial of one division of the Oddfellows, | 
. . . who were flannel-weavers at Rochdale, in Lancashire ; and all that j 
could be well turned from the rules and lectures of one society into the 
regulations of the others was so turned, with some trifling verbal altera- 
tions." In another letter he says that the writer of the " lecture book " 
was one Mark Warde. Tester is not implicitly to be believed, but it 
seems probable that the regalia, doggerel rhymes, and mystic rites of the 
unions of this time were copied from. those of an Oddfellows' Lodge, with 
some recollections of Freemasonry. In his Mutual Thrift (1891), the 
Rev. J. Frome Wilkinson describes (p. 14) the initiation ceremony of the 
" Patriotic Oddfellows," a society which merged in the present " Grand 
United Order of Oddfellows " before the close of the century. The cere- 
mony so described corresponds in many characteristic details with that 
of the Trades Unions. All the older friendly society " Orders " imposed 
an oath, and were consequently unlawful. 

1 Home Office Papers, December 29, 1832, 40 31. 

Union Demands 129 

of monopolising the hard-earned profits of another man's 
business, called ' contracting.' ' Naturally, the little 
masters were not friendly to the contracting system ; 
and most of them agreed with the men's demand that 
its introduction should be resisted. Encouraged by this 
support, the several branches of the building trade in 
Liverpool simultaneously sent in identical claims for a 
uniform rate of wages for each class of operatives, a limi- 
tation of apprentices, the prohibition of machinery and 
piecework, and other requirements special to each branch 
of the trade. These demands were communicated to the 
employers in letters couched in dictatorial and even insult- 
ing terms, and were coupled with a claim to be paid wages 
for any time they might lose by striking to enforce their 
orders. " We consider," said one of these letters, " that 
;as you have not treated our rules with that deference you 
ought to have done, we consider you highly culpable and 
deserving of being severely chastised." And " further," 
says another, " that each and every one in such strike 
shall be paid by you the sum of four shillings per day for 
jevery day you refuse to comply." l 

1 At Birmingham, when the builders' strike presently extended to 
jbhat town, the following was the manifesto drawn up for adoption by the 
(Builders' Union, for presentation to the leading building contractor who 
fiad just undertaken to erect the new grammar-school. (No record of 
Its adoption and presentation has been found.) " We, the delegates of 
the several Lodges of the Building Trades, elected for the purpose of 
Correcting the abuses which have crept into the modes of undertaking 
transacting business, do hereby give you notice that you will receive 
10 assistance from the workingmen in any of our bodies to enable you to 
ulfil an engagement which we understand you have entered into with 
:he Governors of the Free Grammar School to erect a new school in New 
itreet, unless you comply with the following conditions : 

" Aware that it is our labour alone that can carry into effect what 
'ou have undertaken, we cannot but view ourselves as parties to your 
ngagement, if that engagement is ever fulfilled ; and as you had no 
uthority from us to make such an engagement, nor had you any legiti- 
nate right to barter our labour at prices fixed by yourself, we call upon 
'ou to exhibit to our several bodies your detailed estimates of quantities 
nd prices at which you have taken the work ; and we call upon you to 
rrange with us a fixed percentage of profit for your own services in 
jonducting the building, and in finding the material on which our labour 
to be applied. 

"Should we find upon examination that you have fixed equitable 


130 The Revolutionary Period 

This sort of language brought the employers of all 
classes into line. At a meeting held in June 1833 they 
decided not only to refuse all the men's demands, but to 
make a deliberate attempt to extinguish the Union. For 
this purpose they publicly declared that henceforth no man 
need apply for work unless he was prepared to sign a formal 
renunciation of the Trades Union and all its works. The 
insistence on this formal renunciation, henceforth to be 
famous in Trade Union records as the " presentation of 
the document/' exasperated the Builders' Union. The 
Liverpool demands were repeated in Manchester, where 
the employers adopted the same tactics as at Liverpool. 1 

In the very heat of the battle (September 1833) the 
Builders' Union held its annual delegate meeting at Man- 
chester. It lasted six days ; cost, it is said, over 3000 ; 
and was attended by two hundred and seventy delegates, 
representing thirty thousand operatives. This session of 
the " Builders' Parliament " attracted universal attention.! 
Robert Owen addressed the Conference at great length,! 
confiding to it his " great secret " " that labour is the 
source of all wealth," and that wealth can be retained in 
the hands of the producers by a universal compact amor 
the productive classes. It was decided, perhaps under 
influence, to build central offices at Birmingham, whi< 
should also serve as an educational establishment, 
design for this " Builders' Gild Hall/' as it was tei 
was made by Hansom, an architect who, as an enthusiast 
disciple of Owen, threw himself heartily into the stril 

prices which will not only remunerate you for your superintendence 
us for our toil, we have no objections upon a clear understanding to bec( 
partners to the contract, and will see you through it, after your 
entered yourself a member of our body, and after your having been di 
elected to occupy the office you have assumed " (Robert Owen : A Bi 
graphy, by Frank Podmore, 1906, vol. ii. p. 442-4). 

1 An Impartial Statement of the Proceedings of the Members of the Tn 
Union Societies, and of the Steps taken in consequence by the Master Trac 
of Liverpool (Liverpool, 1833) ; Remarks on the Nature and Pro 
Termination of the Struggle now existing between the Master and Jow 
man Builders (Manchester, 1833) ; Times, June 27, 1833. 

The Gild of Builders 131 

:hat was proceeding also in this town. It included, on 
>aper, a lecture-hall and various schoolrooms for the chil- 
dren of members. The foundation-stone was laid with great 
ceremony on December 5, 1833, when the Birmingham 
;rades marched in procession to the site, and enthusiastic 
speeches were made. 1 

We learn from the Pioneer, or Trades Union Magazine 
an unstamped penny weekly newspaper published at first 
at Birmingham, at that time the organ of the Builders' 
Jnion 2 ), the ardent faith and the vast pretensions of these 
Slew Unionists. " A union founded on right and just 
)rinciples," wrote the editor in the first number, " is all 
rhat is now required to put poverty and the fear of it for 
ever out of society." " The vaunted power of capital will 
now be put to the test : we shall soon discover its worthless- 
ness when deprived of your labour. Labour prolific of wealth 
Will readily command the purchase of the soil ; and at a 
very early period we shall find the idle possessor compelled 
to ask of you to release him from his worthless holding." 
Elaborate plans were propounded for the undertaking of 
pll the building of the country by a Grand National Gild of 
Builders : each lodge to elect a foreman ; and the foremen 
ito elect a general superintendent. The disappointment of 
these high hopes was rude and rapid. The Lancashire 
societies demurred to the centralisation which had been 
looted by the delegate meeting in September at the instiga- 
tion of the Midland societies. Two great strikes at Liver- 
pool and Manchester ended towards the close of the year 
: n total failure. The Builders' Gild Hall was abandoned ; 3 
md the Pioneer moved to London, where it became the 
brgan of another body, the Grand National Consolidated 

I l Pioneer, December 7, 1833 ; History of Birmingham, by W. Hutton 
Birmingham, 1835), p. 87. 

8 It was edited by James Morrison, an enthusiastic Owenite, who 

ied, worn out, in 1835 (Beer's History of British Socialism, 1919, p. 


8 It was eventually finished by the landlord, and still exists as a 
ictal warehouse in Shadwell Street. 

132 The Revolutionary Period 

J Trades Union, with which the south country and metro- 
politan branches of the building trade had already pre- 
ferred to affiliate themselves. Nevertheless the Builders' 
Union retained its hold upon the northern counties during 
the early months of 1834, and held another " parliament " 
at Birmingham in April, at which Scotch and Irish repre- 
sentatives were present. 1 

The aggressive activity and rapid growth of the 
Builders' Union during 1832-33 had been only a part of 
a general upheaval in labour organisation. The Cotton- 
spinners had recovered from the failure of the Ashton strike 
(1830-31) by the autumn of 1833, when we find Doherty 
prosecuting with his usual vigour the agitation for an 
eight hours day which had been set on foot by his Society 
for National Regeneration. " The plan is," writes J. 
Fielden (M.P. for Oldham) to William Cobbett, "that 
about the ist March next, the day the said Bill (now Act)| 
limits the time of work for children under eleven years of| 
age to eight hours a day, those above that age, both gro\vn| 
persons and adults, should insist on eight hours a 
being the maximum of time for them to labour ; and th< 
present weekly wages for sixty-nine hours a week to be tl 
minimum weekly wages for forty-eight hours a week aft( 
that time " ; and he proceeds to explain that the Cott< 
spinners had adopted this idea of securing shorter hoi 
by a strike rather than by legislation on Lord Althoi 
suggestion that they should " make a short-time bill fc 
themselves." 2 Fielden and Robert Owen served, 
Doherty, on the committee of this society, which inch 
a few employers. The Lancashire textile trades follow* 
the lead of the Cotton-spinners, and prepared for a " ui 

1 In May 1834 an informer offered to supply the Home Secret 
with full particulars of its organisation, leading members and the 
activities, for two sums of ^50 each (Home Office Papers, 40 32). 

8 Letters to Cobbett 's Weekly Register, reprinted in the Pioneel 
December 21, 1833. See also Home Office Papers, 40 32 ; and trj 
Crisis for November and December 1833. The Voice of the West Riding 
an unstamped weekly, June and July 1833, was devoted to this agitaticj 
in the Yorkshire textile industry (see Home Office Papers, 40 31). 

The "Manufacturers Bond" 133 

versal " strike. Meanwhile their Yorkshire brethren were 
[already engaged in an embittered struggle with their 
employers. The Leeds Clothiers* Union, established about 
1831, and apparently one of the constituent societies of 
the National Association for the Protection of Labour, 
Ibore a striking resemblance to the Builders' Union, not 
only in ceremonial and constitution, but also in its policy 
land history. 1 In the spring of 1833 it made a series of 
attacks on particular establishments with the double aim 
! of forcing all the workers to join the Union and of obtaining 
a uniform scale of prices. These demands were met with 
i the usual weapon. The employers entered into what was 
called " the Manufacturers' Bond," by which they bound 
ithemselves under penalty to refuse employment to all 
members of the Union. The men indignantly refused to 
'abandon the society ; and a lock-out ensued which lasted 
; some months, and was the occasion of repeated leading 
larticles in the Times. 21 

The Potters' Union (also established by Doherty in 
1830) numbered, in the autumn of 1833, eight thousand 
(members, of whom six thousand belonged to Staffordshire 
|and the remainder to the lodges at Newcastle-on-Tyne, 
Derby, Bristol, and Swinton 3 another instance of the 
iextraordinary growth of Trade Unions during these years. 

How far these and other societies were joined together 
in any federal body is not clear. The panic-stricken 
[references in the capitalist press to " the Trades Union," 
|and the vague mention in working-class newspapers of the 
Affiliation of particular societies to larger organisations, 

1 For an unfavourable account of this Union, see the extremely 
(biassed statement given in the pamphlet Character, Objects, and Effects of 
Trades Unions (1834). The employers seem to have regarded all the 
iemands of the men as equally unreasonable, even the request for a list 
af piecework prices. See Times, October 2, 1833. A printed address 
To the Flax and Hemp Trade of Great Britain, issued by the flaxworkers 
of Leeds, November 30, 1832, refers with admiration to the effectiveness 
of this Union (Home Office Papers, 40 31 ; see also 41 n). 

2 Times, October 28, 1833. 
8 Crisis, October 19, 1833. 

134 The Revolutionary Period 

lead us to believe that during the year 1833 there was 
more than one attempt to form a " General Union of All 
Trades/' The Owenite newspapers, towards the end of 
1833, are full of references to the formation of a " General 
Union of the Productive Classes." What manner of 
association Owen himself contemplated may be learnt 
from his speech to the Congress of Owenite Societies in 
London on the 6th of October. " I will now give you," 
said he, "a short outline of the great changes which are 
in contemplation, and which shall come suddenly upon 
society like a thief in the night. . . It is intended that 
national arrangements shall be formed to include all the 
working classes in the great organisation, and that each 
department shall become acquainted with what is goin 
on in other departments ; that all individual competitior 
is to cease ; that all manufactures are to be carried on 
National Companies. . . . All trades shall first form A 
tions of lodges to consist of a convenient number for c 
ing on the business : ... all individuals of the speci 
craft shall become members." 1 Immediately after this 
find in existence a " Grand National Consolidated Tr 
Union," in the establishment and extraordinary growth 
which the project of " the Trades Union " may be 
to have culminated. This organisation seems to ha 
actually started in January 1834. Owen was its chi 
recruiter and propagandist. During the next few mont 
his activity was incessant ; and lodges were affiliated 
over the country. Innumerable local trade clubs w 

1 Crisis, October 12, 1833. The history of the General Trades Unic 
from 1832 to 1834 is mainly to be gathered from the files of the Ch 
press, the Crisis, the Pioneer, and the Herald of the Rights of Indust 
with frequent ambiguous references in the Home Office Papers for th< 
years. The Poor Man's Guardian and the Man also contain occasioi 
references. The Official Gazette, issued by the Grand National Consc 
dated Trades Union itself in June 1834, has unfortunately not I 
preserved. We have also been unable to discover any copy of 
Glasgow Owenite journals, the Tradesman, Trades Advocate, Libert 
etc., mostly edited or written by Owen's disciple, Alexander Camj 
the secretary of the local joiners' Trade Union. 

The " Grand National " 135 

absorbed. Early in February 1834 a special delegate 
meeting was held at Owen's London Institute in Charlotte 
Street, Fitzroy Square, at which it was resolved that 
the new body should take the form of a federation of 
separate trade lodges, each lodge to be composed usually 
of members of one trade, but with provision for " miscel- 
jlaneous lodges " in places where the numbers were small, 
land even for " female miscellaneous lodges." Each lodge 
retained its own funds, levies being made throughout 
jthe whole order for strike purposes. The Conference 
urged each lodge to provide sick, funeral, and superannua- 
tion benefits for its own members ; and proposals were 
adopted to lease land on which to employ "turn-outs," 
ind to set up co-operative workshops. The initiation 
rites and solemn oath, common to all the Unions of the 
period, were apparently adopted. 

Nothing in the annals of Unionism in this country at 
ill approached the rapidity of the growth which ensued. 1 
Within a few weeks the Union appears to have been joined 
py at least half a million members, including tens of 
thousands of farm labourers and women. This must 
lave been in great measure due to the fact that, as no 
jliscoverable regular contribution was exacted for central 
-.xpenses, the affiliation or absorption of existing organisa- 
ions was very easy. Still, the extension of new lodges in 
Deviously unorganised trades and districts was enormous. 
~umerous missionary delegates, duly equipped with all 
ic paraphernalia required for the mystic initiation rites, 
erambulated the country ; and a positive mania for 
rade Unionism set in. In December 1833 we are told 
lat " scarcely a branch of trade exists in the West of 

1 It is interesting to notice how closely this organisation . resembles, 
its Trade Union features, the well-known " Knights of Labour " of 
ie United States, established in 1 869, and for some years one of the most 
owerful labour organisations in the world (" Historical Sketch of the 
Anights of Labour," by Carroll D. Wright, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 
anuary, 1887). Its place was taken by the American Federation of 
abour, with exclusively Trade Union objects. 

136 The Revolutionary Period 

Scotland that is not now in a state of Union." 1 The 
Times reports that two delegates who. went to Hull enrolled 
in one evening a thousand men of various trades. 2 At 
Exeter the two delegates were seized by the police, and 
found to be furnished with " two wooden axes, two large 
cutlasses, two masks, and two white garments or robes, 
a large figure of Death with the dart and hourglass, a Bible 
and Testament." 3 Shop-assistants on the one hand, 
and journeymen chimney-sweeps on the other, were swept 
into the vortex. The cabinetmakers of Belfast insisted on 
joining " the Trades Union, or Friendly Society, which 
had for its object the unity of all cabinetmakers in the 
three kingdoms." 4 We hear of " Ploughmen's Unions " 
as far off as Perthshire, 5 and of a " Shearman's Union " at 
Dundee. And the then rural character of the Metro- ; 
politan suburbs is quaintly brought home to us by the 
announcement of a union of the " agricultural and oth( 
labourers " of Kensington, Walham Green, Fulham, 
Hammersmith. Nor were the women neglected. 
" Grand Lodge of Operative Bonnet Makers " vies 
activity with the miscellaneous " Grand Lodge of tl 
Women of Great Britain and Ireland " ; and the " ] 
of Female Tailors " asks indignantly whether the " Tailoi 
Order " is really going to prohibit women from maki] 
waistcoats. Whether the Grand National Consolidat< 
Trades Union was responsible for the lodges of " Fem< 
Gardeners " and " Ancient Virgins," who afterwards 
tinguished themselves in the riotous demand for an e 
hours day at Oldham, 6 is not clear. 

How the business of this colossal federation was actualh 

1 Glasgow Argus, quoted in People's Conservative, December 28, 

2 May 5, 1834. 

3 Times, January 23 and 30, 1834. 

4 Kerr's Exposition of Legislative Tyranny and Defence of the Trc 
Union (Belfast, 1834), vol. 1611 of the Halliday Tracts in the Royal I] 
Academy, Dublin ; see The Irish Labour Movement, by W. P. Ryan, i<j 

6 Poor Man's Guardian, July 26, 1834. 
* Times, April 19, 1834. 

The "Derby Turn-outs" 137 

managed we do not know. 1 Some kind of executive com- 
mittee sat in London, with four paid officers. The need 
for statesmanlike administration was certainly great. The 
avowed policy of the federation was to inaugurate a general 
expropriatory strike of all wage -earners throughout the 
country, not " to condition with the master-producers of 
wealth and knowledge for some paltry advance in the arti- 
ficial money price in exchange for their labour, health, 
liberty, natural enjoyment, and life ; but to ensure to 
every one the best cultivation of all their faculties and the 
most advantageous exercise of all their powers." But 
from the very beginning of its career it found itself inces- 
santly involved in sectional disputes for small advances 
of wages and reduction of hours. The mere joining of 
j " the Trades Union " was often made the occasion of the 
i dismissal by the employers of all those who would not 
isign the " document " abjuring all combinations. Thus 
the accession of the Leicester Hosiers in November 1833 
led to a disastrous dispute, in which over 1300 men had 
to be supported. In Glasgow a serious strike broke out 
among the building trades at a time when the Calico- 
printers, Engineers, and Cabinetmakers were already 
struggling with their employers. The most costly conflict, 
however, which the Grand National found on its hands 
during the winter was that which raged at Derby, where 
iifteen hundred men, women, and children had been locked 
>ut by their employers for refusing to abandon the Union. 
The " Derby turn-outs " were at first supported, like their 
el] ow- victims elsewhere, by contributions sent from the 
trade organisations in various parts of the kingdom ; but 
t soon became evident that without systematic aid they 

1 The only record of this organisation known to us is a copy of the 
ules in the Goldsmiths' Library at the University of London, which 
e print in the Appendix. A "Memorial from the Grand National 
onsolidated Trades Union of Great Britain and Ireland to the Producers 
id Non-Producers of Wealth and Knowledge " is printed in the Crisis, 
ay 17, 1834; another, "to the Shopmen, Clerks, Porters and other 
dustrious non-producers," in the issue for April 26, 1834. 

F 2 

138 The Revolutionary Period 

would be compelled to give way. A levy of a shilling per 
member was accordingly decreed by the Grand National 
Executive in February 1834. Arrangements were made 
for obtaining premises and machinery upon which to set 
a few of the strikers to work on their own account. The 
struggle ended, after four months, in the complete triumph 
of the employers, and the return of the operatives to work. 

The " Derby turn-out " was widely advertised by the 
newspapers, and brought much odium on the Grand National. 
But the denunciation of " the Trades Union " greatly 
increased when part of London was laid in darkness by a 
strike of the gas-stokers. The men employed by the different! 
gas companies in the metropolis had been quietly organising! 
during the winter, with the intention of simultaneously! 
withdrawing from work if their demands were not acceded! 
to. The plot was discovered, and the companies succeeded 
in replacing their Union workmen by others. But weeks) 
elapsed before the new hands were able completely to 
form their work, 1 and early in March 1834 Westminsl 
was for some days in partial darkness. Amid the storm 
obloquy caused by these disputes the Grand Natioi 
suddenly found itself in conflict with the law. The c( 
viction of six Dorchester labourers in March 1834 for tl 
mere act of administering an oath, and their sentence 
seven years' transportation, came like a thunderbolt 
the Trade Union world. 

To understand such a barbarous sentence we mi 
picture to ourselves the effect on the minds of the Govei 
ment and the propertied classes of the menacing id* 
of " the Trades Union," brought home by the aggressn 
policy of the Unions during the last four years. Al 
in 1830 the formation of national and General Unions 
excited the attention of the Government. " When we 
came into office in November last," writes Lord Melboui 
the Whig Home Secretary, to Sir Herbert Taylor, 

1 See the London newspapers for March 1834; a good summary \ 
given in the Companion to the Newspaper for that month (p. 71). 

Nassau Senior 139 

Unions of trades in the North of England and in other 
parts of the country for the purpose of raising wages, etc., 
and the General Union for the same purpose, were pointed 
out to me by Sir Robert Peel [the outgoing Tory Home 
Secretary] in a conversation I had with him upon the then 
state of the country, as the most formidable difficulty and 
danger with which we had to contend ; and it struck me 
as well as the rest of His Majesty's servants in the same 
light." ! 

To advise the Cabinet in this difficulty Lord Melbourne 
called in Nassau Senior, who had just completed his first 
term of five years as Professor of Political Economy at 
Oxford, and directed him to prepare, in conjunction with 
a legal expert named Tomlinson, a report on the situation 
and a plan of remedial legislation. This document throws 
light both on the state of mind and on the practical judge- 
ment of the trusted economist. The two commissioners 
appear to have made no inquiries among workmen, and to 
have accepted implicitly every statement, including hearsay 
gossip, offered by employers. The evidence thus collected 
naturally led to a very unfavourable conclusion. It pro- 
duced, as the commissioners recite, " upon our minds the 
conviction that if the innocent and laborious workman and 
lis family are to be left without protection against the 
cowardly ferocity by which he is now assailed ; if the 
manufacturer is to employ his capital and the mechanist 
or chemist his ingenuity, only under the dictation of his 
short-sighted and rapacious workmen, or his equally ignorant 
and avaricious rivals ; if a few agitators are to be allowed to 
command a strike which first paralyses the industry of the 
peculiar class of workpeople over whom they tyrannise, 

1 September 26, 1831 : Lord Melbourne's Papers (1889), ch. v. p. 130. 
The note he left on leaving the Home Office was as follows : "I take the 
iberty of recommending the whole of this correspondence re the Union 
:o the immediate and serious consideration of my successor at the Home 
Department " (Home Office Papers, 40 27). See also the statements in 
:he House of Lords debate, Times, April 29, 1834 ; and the comments in 
Labour Legislation, Labour Movements, and Labour Leaders, by George 
Howell, 1902, p. 23. 

140 The Revolutionary Period 

and then extends itself in an increasing circle over the 
many thousands and tens of thousands to whose labour 
the assistance of that peculiar class of workpeople is essen- 
tial ; that if all this is to be unpunished, and to be almost 
sanctioned by the repeal of the laws by which it was formerly 
punishable ; it is in vain to hope that we shall long retain 
the industry, the skill, or the capital on which our manu- 
facturing superiority, and with that superiority our power 
and almost our existence as a nation, depends." They 
accordingly conclude with a series of astounding proposals 
for the amendment of the law. The Act of 1825 could 
not conveniently be openly repealed ; but its mischievous 
results were to be counteracted by drastic legislation,' 
They recommend that a law should be passed clearly recitingj 
the common law prohibitions of conspiracy and restraint 
of trade. The law should go on to forbid, under severe 
penalties, " all attempts or solicitations, combinations 
subscriptions, and solicitations to combinations " to threater 
masters, to persuade blacklegs, or even simply to ask wor 
men to join the Union. 1 Picketing, however peaceful, 
to be comprehensively forbidden and ruthlessly punish 
Employers or their assistants were to be authorised the 
selves to arrest men without summons or warrant, and h 
them before any justice of the peace. The encouragem 
of combinations by masters was to be punished by hea 
pecuniary penalties, to be recovered by any common inform 
" This," say the commissioners, " is as much as we sho 
recommend in the first instance. But if it should be pro 
that the evil of the combination system cannot be subd 
at a less price, . . . we must recommend the experiment 
confiscation," confiscation, that is, of the " funds s 
scribed for purposes of combination and deposited in Savi 
Banks or otherwise." 2 

1 " We recommend that the soliciting of any person to join in 
binations, or to subscribe to the like purposes, should be punishable 
summary conviction by imprisonment for a shorter period, say not 
ceeding two months." 

8 The report was never published, and lies in MS. in the H< 

Lord Melbourne 141 

The Whig Government dared not submit either the 
report or the proposals to a House of Commons pledged 
to the doctrines of Philosophic Radicalism. " We con- 
sidered much ourselves," writes Lord Melbourne, 1 " and 
we consulted much with others as to whether the arrange- 
ments of these unions, their meetings, their communica- 

Office library. Ten years later, when Nassau Senior was acting as 
Commissioner to report on the condition of the handloom weavers, 
he revived a good deal of his 1830 Report, but not the astonishing 
proposals quoted in the text. The portion thus revived appears in 
his Historical and Philosophical Essays (1865), vol. ii. We had 
placed in our hands, through the kindness of Mrs. Simpson, daughter 
of Nassau Senior, the original answers and letters upon which his 
report was based. This correspondence .shows that the leading Man 
Chester manufacturers were not agreed upon the desirability of re-enact- 
ing the Combination Laws, though they, with one accord, advocated 
stringent repression of picketing. Nor were they clear that combinations 
had, on the whole, hindered the introduction of new machinery, one 
employer even maintaining that the Unions indirectly promoted its 
adoption. But the most interesting feature of the correspondence is the 
extent to which the employers complained of the manner in which their 
rivals incited, and even subsidised, strikes against attempted reductions of 
rates. The millowner, whose improved processes gave him an advantage 
in the market, found any* corresponding reduction of piecework rates 
resisted, not only by his own operatives, but by all the other manu- 
facturers in the district, who sometimes went so far as to publish a joint 
declaration that any such reduction was ' highly inexpedient.' The 
evidence, in fact, from Nassau Senior's point of view, justified his 
somewhat remarkable proposal to punish employers for conniving at 

1 Lord Melbourne to Sir Herbert Taylor, September 26, 1831 (Papers, 
chap. v. p. 131). The workmen's combinations began at this time to 
attract more serious attention from capable students than they had 
hitherto received. Two able pamphlets, published anonymously there 
is reason to believe at the instance and at the cost of the Whig Govern- 
ment On Combinations of Trades (1830), and Character, Objects, and Effects 
of Trades Unions (1834), set forth the constitution and proceedings of the 
new unions, and criticise their pretensions in a manner which has not 
since been surpassed. The second of these was by Edward Carlton 
Tufnell, one of the factory commissioners, and remains perhaps the best 
statement of the case against Trades Unionism. Tufnell also wrote a 
pamphlet, entitled Trades Unionism and Strikes (1834 ; i2mo) ; and 
Harriet Martineau one On the Tendency of Strikes and Sticks to produce 
Low Wages (Durham, 1834 ; lamo), neither of which we have seen. A 
well-informed but hostile article, founded on these materials, appeared 
in the Edinburgh Review for July 1834. Charles Knight published in 
the same year a sixpenny pamphlet, Trades Unions and Strikes (1834, 
99 pp.). which took the form of a bitter denunciation of the whole move- 

142 The Revolutionary Period 

tions, or their pecuniary funds could be reached or in any 
way prevented by any new legal provisions ; but it appeared 
upon the whole impossible to do anything effectual unless 
we proposed such measures as would have been a serious 
infringement upon the constitutional liberties of the country, 
and to which it would have been impossible to have obtained 
the consent of Parliament." 

The King, however, had been greatly alarmed at the 
meeting of the " Builders' Parliament," and pressed the 
Cabinet to take strong measures. 1 Rotch, the member for 
Knaresborough, gave notice in April 1834 f his intention 
to bring in a Bill designed to make combinations of trades 
impossible a measure which would have obtained a 
large amount of support from the manufacturers. 2 The 
coal-owners and ship-owners, the ironmasters, had al 
been pressing the Home Secretary for legislation of this 

But although Lord Melbourne's prudent caution saved 
the Unions from drastic prohibitory Jaws, the Government 
lost no opportunity of showing its hostility to the work- 
men's combinations. When in August 1833 the Yorkshire! 
manufacturers presented a memorial on the subject oi 
" the Trades Union," Lord Melbourne directed the answer 
to be returned that " he considers it unnecessary to repeal! 
the strong opinion entertained by His Majesty's Ministers! 
of the criminal character and the evil effects of the unic 
described in the Memorial," adding that " no doubt can 
entertained that combinations for the purposes enumerate 
are illegal conspiracies, and liable to be prosecuted as sue 
at common law." 3 The employers scarcely needed tl 
hint. Although combination for the sole purpose of fixii 
hours or wages had ceased to be illegal, it was. possil 

1 See his letter of March 30, 1 834, in Lord Melbourne's Papers, chap. 

2 Leeds Mercury, April 26, 1834. Joseph Hume said he had had ti 
" greatest difficulty in prevailing upon the Ministers not to bring in 
bill for putting down the Trades Unions " (Poor Man's Guardian, A/r ~-' 
29, 1834). 

* Letter dated September 3, 1833, in Times, September 9, 1833. 

Repression . 143 

to prosecute the workmen upon various other pretexts. 
Sometimes, as in the case of some Lancashire miners 
in 1832, the Trade Unionists were indicted for illegal 
combination for merely writing to their employers that a 
strike would take place. 1 Sometimes the " molestation or 
obstruction " prohibited in the Act of 1825 was made 
to include the mere intimation of the men's intention to 
strike against the employment of non-unionists. In a 
remarkable case at Wolverhampton in August 1835, four 
potters were imprisoned for intimidation, solely upon 
evidence by the employers that they had " advanced their 
prices in consequence of the interference of the defendants, 
who acted as plenipotentiaries for the men," without, as 
was admitted, the use of even the mildest threat. 2 Picket- 
ing, even of the most peaceful kind, was frequently severely 
punished under this head, as four Southwark shoemakers 
found in 1832 to their cost. 3 More generally the men on 
strike were proceeded against under the laws relating to 
masters and servants, as in the case of seventeen tanners 
at Bermondsey in February 1834, who were sentenced 
to imprisonment for the offence of leaving their work 
unfinished. 4 

With the authorities in this temper, their alarm at the 
growth of the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union 
may be imagined. A new legal weapon was soon discovered. 
At the time of the mutiny at the Nore in 1797 an Act 
had been passed (37 Geo. III. c. 123) severely penalising 
the administering of an oath by an unlawful society. In 
1819, when political sedition was rife, a measure prohibiting 
unlawful oaths had formed one of the notorious " Six Acts." 
In neither case were trade combinations aimed at, though 

1 R. v. Bykerdike, i Moo. and Rob. 179, Lancaster Assizes, 1832. A 
letter was written to certain coal -owners, " by order of the Board of 
Directors for the body of coal-miners," stating that unless certain men 
were discharged the miners would strike. Held to be an illegal com- 
bination. See Leeds Mercury, May 24, 1834. 

* Times, August 22, 1835. 

* Poor Man's Guardian, September 29, 1832. 

* limes, February 27, 1834. 

144 The Revolutionary Period 

Lord Ellenborough, in an isolated prosecution in I802, 1 had 
held that an oath administered by a committee of journey- 
men shearmen in Wiltshire came within the terms of the 
earlier statute. It does not seem to have occurred to any 
one to put the law in force against Trade Unions until the 
oath-bound confederacy of the Grand National Consolidated 
Trades Union began to make headway even in the rural 
villages of the South of England. 

The story of the trial and transportation of the Dor- 
chester labourers is the best-known episode of early Trade 
Union history. 2 The agricultural labourers of the southern 
counties, oppressed by the tacit combinations of the farmers 
and by the operation of the Corn Laws, as well as excep- 
tionally demoralised by the Old Poor Law, had long been in 
a state of sullen despair. The specially hard times of 1829 
had resulted in outbursts of machine-breaking, rick-burning, 
and hunger riots, which had been put down in 1830 by 
the movement of troops through the disturbed districts, 
and the appointment of a Special Commission of Assize to 
try over 1000 prisoners, several of whom were hung am 
hundreds transported. The whole wage-earning populatioi 
of these rural districts was effectually cowed. 3 Wi1 
the improvement of trade a general movement for high( 

1 R. v. Marks and others, 3 East Rep. 157. 

2 Lengthy accounts appeared in the newspapers for March and Api 
1834. The indictment is given in full in the House of Commons Retut 
No. 250, of 1835 (June ist). The legal report is in 6 C. and P. 596 (R. 
Loveless and others). The Times reported the judge's charge at soi 
length, March 18, 1834, and the case itself March 20, 1834, giving 
rules of the projected union. Ap able article in the Law Magazine, vol 
pp. 460-72, discusses the law of the case. The defendants subsequentl 
published two statements for popular circulation, viz. Victims of Whigge 
a statement of the persecution experienced by the Dorchester Labourers, 
George Loveless (1837), and A narrative of the sufferings of James Li 
less, etc. (1838), which are in the British Museum. See also Labour Legii 
lotion, Labour Movements, and Labour Leaders, by G. Howell, 1902, 
62-75 I Spencer Walpole's History of England, vol. iii. chap. xiii. 
229-31 ; and Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, vols. xxii. and xxiii. 

8 The student is referred to the admirable account of these prc 
ings in The Village Labourer, by J. L. and B. Hammond, 1912. See, 
a contemporary account, Swing Unmasked, or the Cause of Rural It 
cendiarism, by G. C. Wakefield, M.P., 1831. 

The Dorchester Labourers 145 

wages seems to have been set on foot. In 1832 we find 
the Duke of Wellington, as Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, 
reporting to Lord Melbourne that more than half the 
labourers in his county were contributing a penny per week 
to a network of local societies affiliated, as he thought, 
to some National Union. " The labourers said that they 
had received directions from the Union not to take less 
than ten shillings, and that the Union would stand by them." 1 
These societies, whatever may have been their constitution, 
had apparently the effect of raising wages not only in 
Hampshire, but also in the neighbouring counties. In 
the village of Tolpuddle, in Dorsetshire, as George Loveless 
tells us, an agreement was made between the farmers and 
the men, in the presence of the village parson, that the 
wages should be those paid in other districts. This involved 
a rise to ten shillings a week. In the following year the 
farmers repented of their decision, and successively reduced 
wages shilling by shilling until they were paying only 
seven shillings a week. In this strait the men made inquiries 
about " the Trades Union," and two delegates from the 
Grand National visited the village. Upon their information 
the Lovelesses established " the Friendly Society of Agri- 
cultural Labourers," having its " Grand Lodge " at Tol- 
puddle. For this village club the elaborate ritual and 
code of rules of one of the national orders of the Grand 
National Consolidated Trades Union were adopted. No 
secrecy seems to have been observed, for John Loveless 
openly ordered of the village painter a figure of " Death 
painted six feet high for a society of his own," 2 with which 
to perform the initiation rites. The farmers took alarm, 
and induced the local magistrates, on February 21, 1834, 
to issue placards warning the labourers that any one joining 

1 Lord Melbourne's Papers, pp. 147-150, letters dated November 3 
and 7, 1832. Lord Melbourne seems to have thought, probably quite 
incorrectly, that these rural organisations were in connection with the 
political organisation called the National Union of the Working Classes, 
founded by William Lovett in 1831, to support the Reform Bill. 

8 Times, March 20, 1834. 

146 The Revolutionary Period 

the Union would be sentenced to seven years' transportation. 
This was no idle threat. Within three days of the publica- 
tion of the notice the Lovelesses and four other members 
were arrested and lodged in gaol. 

The trial of these unfortunate labourers was a scandalous 
perversion of the law. The Lovelesses and their friends 
seem to have been simple-minded Methodists, two of them 
being itinerant preachers. No accusation was made, and 
no evidence preferred against them, of anything worse 
than the playing with oaths, which, as we have seen, formed 
a part of . the initiation ceremony of the Grand National 
and other Unions of the time, with evidently no conscious- 
ness of their statutory illegality. Not only were they 
guiltless of any intimidation or outrage, but they had not 
even struck or presented any application for higher wages. 
Yet the judge (John Williams), who had only recently 
been raised to the bench, charged the grand jury on the 
case at portentous length, as if the prisoners had com- 
mitted murder or treason, and inflicted on them, after the 
briefest of trials, the monstrous sentence of seven years' 

The action of the Government shows how eagerly the 
Home Secretary accepted the blunder of an inexperienced 
judge as part of his policy of repression. Lord Melbourne 
expressed his opinion that " the law has in this case been 
most properly applied " ; x and the sentence, far froi 
exciting criticism in the Whig Cabinet, was carried oul 
with special celerity. The case was tried on March 
1834 ; before the 30 th the prisoners were in the hulks 
and by the i5th of the next month Lord Ho wick was able 
to say in the House of Commons that their ship had already 
sailed for Botany Bay. 2 

The Grand National Consolidated Trades Union prove 
to have a wider influence than the Government expect( 

1 Lord Melbourne's Papers, p. 158. 

2 Times, March 18, 20, 31; April I, 16, 19, 1834; Leeds Merci 
April 26, 1834. 

The London Demonstration 147 

The whole machinery of the organisation was turned to 
the preparation of petitions and the holding of public 
meetings, and a wave of sympathy rallied, for a few weeks, 
the drooping energies of the members. Cordial relations 
were established with the five great Unions which remained 
outside the ranks, for the northern counties were mainly 
organised by the Builders' Union, the Leeds, Huddersfield 
and Bradford District Union, the Clothiers' Union, the \j 
Cotton-spinners' Union, and the Potters' Union, which 
on this occasion sent delegates to London to assist the 
executive of the Grand National. The agitation culminated 
in a monster procession of Trade Unionists to the Home 
Office to present a petition to Lord Melbourne the first 
of the great " demonstrations " which have since become 
a regular part of the machinery of London politics. The 
proposal to hold this procession had excited the utmost 
alarm, both in friends and to foes. The Times, with the 
Parisian events of 1830 still in its memory, wrote leader 
after leader condemning the project, and Lord Melbourne 
let it be known that he would refuse to receive any deputation 
or petition from a procession. Special constables were 
sworn in, and troops brought into London to prevent a 
rising. At length the great day arrived (April 21, 1834). 
Owen and his friends managed the occasion with much 
skill. In order to avoid interference by the new police, 
the vacant ground at Copenhagen Fields, on which the 
processionists assembled, was formally hired from the owner. 
The trades were regularly marshalled behind thirty-three 
banners, each man decorated by a red ribbon. At the 
lead of the procession rode, in full canonicals and the scarlet 
lood of a Doctor of Divinity, the corpulent " chaplain to 
:he Metropolitan Trades Unions," Dr. Arthur S. Wade. 1 
The demonstration, in point of numbers, was undoubtedly 
a success. We learn, for instance, that the tailors alone 
paraded from 5000 to 7000 strong, and the master builders 

1 A prominent Owenite agitator of the time, incumbent of St. Nicholas, 
Varwick, who is said to have been inhibited from preaching by his bishop. 

148 The Revolutionary Period 

subsequently complained that their works had been entirely 
suspended through their men's participation. Over a 
quarter of a million signatures had been obtained to the 
petition, and, even on the admission of the Times, 30,000 
persons took part in the procession, representing a pro- 
portion of the London of that time equivalent to 100,000 
to-day. 1 

Meanwhile Radicals of all shades hastened to the rescue. 
A public meeting was held at the Crown and Anchor Tavern 
at which Roebuck, Colonel Perronet Thompson, and Daniel 
O'Connell spoke ; and a debate took place in the House 
of Commons in which the ferocious sentence was strongly 
attacked by Joseph Hume. 2 But the Government, far from 
remitting the punishment, refused even to recognise that 
it was excessive ; and the unfortunate labourers were 
allowed to proceed to their penal exile. 3 

The Dorchester conviction had the effect of causing 
the oath to be ostensibly dropped out of Trade Union 
ceremonies, although in particular trades and districts 

1 Times, April 22 ; Companion to the Newspaper, May and June 1834. 
Trade Union accounts declare that 100,000 to 200,000 persons were present. 
A detailed description of the day is given in Somerville's A utobiography 
of a Working Man (1848), not usually a trustworthy work. 

* Times, April 19, 1834. 

8 The agitation for their release was kept up, both in and out 
Parliament, by the " London Dorchester Committee " ; and in 1836 
remainder of the sentence was remitted. Through official blundering i1 
was two years later (April 1838) before five out of the six prisoners 
turned home. The sixth, as we learn from a circular of the Committ 
dated August 20, 1838, had even then not arrived. " Great and lastii 
honour," writes a well-informed contemporary, " is due to this body 
workmen (the London Dorchester Committee), about sixteen in numl 
by whose indefatigable exertions, extending over a period of five year 
and the valuable assistance of Thomas Wakley, M.P. for Finsbury, 
same Government who banished the men were compelled to pard( 
them and bring them home free of expense. From the subscriptio] 
raised by the working classes during this period, amounting to aboi 
^1300, the Committee, on the return of the men, were enabled to pi 
five of them, with their families, in small farms in Essex, the sixth pt 
ferring (with his share of the fund) to return to his native place." (Ai 
in the British Statesman, April 9, 1842, preserved in Place MSS. 2y8 
320.) See also House of Commons Return, No. 191 of 1837 (April 12): 
and Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, vol. xxxii. p. 253. 

The Tailors Strike 149 

it lingered a few years longer. 1 At their " parliament " 
in April 1834 t ne Builders' Union formally abolished 
the oath. The Grand National quickly adopted the same 
course ; and the Leeds and other Unions followed suit. 
But the judge's sentence was of no avail to check the 
aggressive policy of the Unions. Immediately after the 
excitement of the procession had subsided, one of the 
most important branches of the Grand National precipitated 
a serious conflict with its employers. The London tailors, 
hitherto divided among themselves, formed in December 
1833 the " First Grand Lodge of Operative Tailors/' and 
resolved to demand a shortening of the hours of labour. 
The state of mind of the men is significantly shown by the 
language of their peremptory notice to the masters. " In 
order," they write, " to stay the ruinous effects which a 
destructive commercial competition has so long been 
inflicting on the trade, they have resolved to introduce 
certain new regulations of labour into the trade, which regu- 
lations they intend shall come into force on Monday next." 
A general strike ensued, in which 20,000 persons are said 
to have been thrown out of work, the whole burden of their 
maintenance being cast on the Grand National funds. A 
levy of eighteenpence per member throughout the country 
was made in May 1834, which caused some dissatisfaction ; 
and the proceeds were insufficient to prevent the tailors' 
strike pay falling to four shillings a week. The result was 

1 The series of " Initiation Parts," or forms to be observed on admis- 
sion of new members, which are preserved in the archives of the Stone- 
masons' Society, reveal the steady tendency to simplification of ritual. 
We have first the old MS. doggerel already described, dating probably from 
1832. The first print of 1834, whilst retaining a good deal of the cere- 
monial, turns the liturgy into prose and the oath into an almost identical 
" declaration," invoking the " dire displeasure " of the Society in case of 
treachery. The second print, which bears no date, is much shorter ; and 
the declaration becomes a mere affirmation of adhesion. The Society's 
circulars of 1838 record the abolition, by vote of the members, of all 
initiation ceremonies, in view of the Parliamentary Inquiry about to be 
held into Trade Unionism. But even the simplified form of 1838 retains, 
in its reference to the workmen as " the real producers of all wealth," an 
unmistakable trace of the Owenite spirit of the Builders' Union of 1832. 

150 The Revolutionary Period 

that the men gradually returned to work on the employers' 
terms. 1 

These disasters, together with innumerable smaller 
strikes in various parts, all of which were unsuccessful, 
shook the credit of the Grand National. The executive 
attempted in vain to stem the torrent of strikes by publish- 
ing a " Declaration of the Views and Objects of Trades 
Unions," in which they deprecated disputes and advocated 
what would now be called Co-operative Production by 
Associations of Producers. 2 They gave effect to this 
declaration by refusing to sanction the London shoemakers' 
demand for increased wages, on the ground that a conflict 
so soon after the tailors' defeat was inopportune. The 
result was merely that a general meeting of the London 
shoemakers voted, by 782 to 506, for secession from the 
federation, and struck on their own account. 3 

An even more serious blow was the lock-out of the 
London building trades in July 1834. These trades in 
London had joined the Grand Consolidated rather than 
the Builders' Union ; and in the summer of 1834 an act of 
petty tyranny on the part of a single firm brought about 
a general conflict. The workmen employed by Messi 
Cubitt had resolved not to drink any beer supplied b] 
Combe, Delafield & Co., in retaliation for the refusal 
that firm to employ Trade Unionists. Messrs. Cubil 
thereupon refused to allow any other beer to be drui 
on their premises, and locked out their workmen, 
employers throughout London, angered by the Union' 
resistance to sub-contract and piecework, embraced tl 
opportunity to insist that all their employees should 
the hated " document." The heads of the Governmei 

1 Times, April 30 to June 10 ; House of Lords debate, April 28, 
Globe, May 21, 1834 ; Home Office Papers, May 10, 1834, 40 32 ; Tl 
Tailoring Trade, by F. W. Galton, 1896. 

2 Leeds Mercury, May 3, 1834. 

3 See the address of the " Grand Master " to the " Operative 
wainers of the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union," 
June 28, 1834 ; also Times, May 2, 1834 ; Home Office Papers, 40 32. 

The Builders' Strike 151 

departments in which building operatives were employed 
placed themselves in line with private employers by making 
the same demands, 1 The struggle dragged on until 
November 1834, when the document seems to have been 
tacitly withdrawn, and the men returned to work, accepting 
the employers' terms on the other points at issue. 2 We 
learn from the correspondence of the Stonemasons' Society 
that this defeat for such it virtually was completely 
broke up the organisation in the London building trade. 
What was happening to the Builders' Union during these 
months is not clear. The federal organisation apparently 
broke up at about this time ; and the several trades fell 
back upon their local clubs and national societies. 

Whilst the London builders were thus engaged, similar 
struggles were going on in the other leading industries 
At Leeds, for instance, in May 1834 the masters were 
again presenting the " document " ; and the men, after 
much resistance and angry denunciation, were compelled 
to abandon the Clothiers' Union. The Cotton-spinners, 
whom we left preparing to carry out Fielden's idea of 
a general strike for an eight hours day with undiminished 
wages for all cotton operatives, resolved to demand the 
reduction of hours from the 1st of March 1834, the day 
appointed for the operation of the new Factory Act of 
1833 limiting the hours of children to eight per day. The 
operatives in many mills sent in notices, which were simply 
ignored by the employers. In this they seem to have 
estimated the weakness of the men correctly ; for the 
expected general strike was deferred by a delegate meeting 
until the 2nd of June. That date found the men still un- 
prepared for action, and the strike was further postponed 
until the ist of September. After that we hear no more of it. 

The Oldham operatives did indeed in April 1834 

1 Times, August 21, 1834. 

z Statement of the Master Builders of the Metropolis in explanation oj 
the differences between them and the workmen respecting the Trades Unions, 
1834. See also Times, July 27 to November 29, 1834. 

152 The Revolutionary Period 

an unpremeditated attempt to secure eight hours. It hap- 
pened that the local constables broke up a Trade Union 
meeting. A rescue took place, followed by an attack on 
an obnoxious mill, and the shooting of one of the rioters 
by a " Knobstick." The affray provoked the Oldham 
working class into a spasm of insurrection. The workers 
in all trades, both male and female, ceased work, and held 
huge meetings on the Moor, where they were addressed by 
Doherty and others from Manchester, and demanded the 
eight hours day. Within a week the excitement subsided, 
and work was resumed. 1 

By the end of the summer it was obvious that the 
ambitious projects of the Grand National Consolidated 
and other " Trades Unions " had ended in invariable and 
complete failure. In spite of the rising prosperity of trade, 
the strikes for better conditions of labour had been uni- 
formly unsuccessful. In July 1834 the federal organisa- 
tions all over the country were breaking up. The great 
association of half a million members had been completely 
routed by the employers' vigorous presentation of tl 
" document." Of the actual dissolution of the organisatioi 
we have no contemporary record, but the impression whic 
it made on the more sober Trade Unionists may be gathers 
from the following description, which appeared in a working 
class journal seven years afterwards. "We were present,' 
says the editor of the Trades Journal, " at many of tl 
meetings of the Grand National Consolidated Trades Unioi 
and have a distinct recollection of the excitement that pre 
vailed in them of the apparent determination to cai 
out its principles in opposition to every obstacle of tl 
enthusiasm exhibited by some of the speakers of tl 
noisy approbation of the meeting the loud cries of ' h( 
hear,' ' bravo/ ' hurra,' ' union for ever/ etc. It was 

1 The Times honoured these events by long descriptive reports fn 
its " own correspondent," then an unusual practice ; see the issues fn 
April 17 to 25, 1834. A good account is also to be found in the Let 
Mercury, April 19 and 26, 1834 ; see also the History of the Mar en 
Family (1889), pp. 1036. 

The Collapse 153 

opinion of many at that time that little real benefit would 
be effected by this union, as their proceedings were indicative, 
not of a calm and dispassionate investigation of the causes 
of existing evils, but of an over-excited state of mind which 
would speedily evaporate, and leave them in the same 
condition as before. The event proved that this opinion 
was not ill-founded. A little mole-hill obstructed their 
onward progress ; and rather than commence the labour 
of removing so puny an obstacle, they chose to turn back, 
each taking his own path, regardless of the safety or the 
interests of his neighbour. It was painful to see the deep 
mortification of the generals and leaders of this quickly 
inflated army, when left deserted and alone upon the field." l 

A period of general apathy in the Trade Union world 
ensued. The " London Dorchester Committee " continued 
with indomitable perseverance to collect subscriptions and 
present petitions for the return of the six exiled labourers ; 
but " the Trades Union," together with the ideal from 
which it sprang, vanished in, discredit. The hundreds of 
thousands of recruits from the new industries or unskilled 
occupations rapidly reverted to a state of disorganisation. 
The national " orders " of Tailors and Shoemakers, the 
extended organisations of Cotton-spinners and Woollen- 
workers, split up into fragmentary societies. Throughout 
the country the organised constituents of the Grand National 
fell back upon their local trade clubs. 

The records of the rise and fall of the " New Unionism " 
of 1830-4 leave us conscious' of a vast enlargement in the 
ideas of the workers, without any corresponding alteration 
in their tactics in the field. In council they are idealists, 
dreaming of a new heaven and a new earth ; humanitarians, 
educationalists, socialists, moralists : in battle they are still 
the struggling, half -emancipated serfs of 1825, armed only 
with the rude weapons of the strike and boycott ; some- 

1 Trades Journal, March i, 1841 ; probably written by Alexander 
Hutchinson, general secretary of the Friendly United Smiths of Great 
Britain and Ireland. 

154 The Revolutionary Period 

times feared and hated by the propertied classes ; sometimes 
merely despised ; always oppressed, and miserably poor. 
We find, too, that they are actually less successful with the 
old weapons now that they wield them with new and wider 
ideas. They get beaten in a rising market instead of, as 
hitherto, only in a falling one. And we shall soon see that 
they did not recover their lost advantage until they again con- 
centrated their efforts on narrower and more manageable aims. 
But we have first to inquire how they came by the new ideas. 
j> In the bad times which followed the peace of 1815 the 
writings of Cobbett had attained an extraordinary influence 
and authority over the whole of that generation of working 
men. His trenchant denunciation of the governing classes, 
and his incessant appeals to the wage-earners to assert their 
right to the whole administration of affairs, were inspired 
by the political tyranny of the anti- Jacobin reaction, the 
high prices and heavy taxes, and the apparent creation by| 
" the Funding System " of an upstart class of non-producers 
living on the interest of the.Jiuge debt contracted by the 
nation during the war evils the least of which was enough 
to stimulate an eager politician like Cobbett to the utm< 
exercise of his unrivalled power of invective. But tl 
working classes were suffering, in addition, from a calamil 
which no mere politician of that time grasped, in the effe( 
of the new machine and factory industry, which was blin< 
crushing out the old methods by the mere brute force 
competition instead of replacing it, with due order 
adjustment to the human interests involved. This phenc 
menon was beyond the comprehension of its victims, 
of them knew what was happening to himself as an indi) 
dual ; but only one man a manufacturer seems to hai 
understood what was happening to the entire industry 
the country. This man was Robert Owen. To hi] 
therefore, political Democracy, which was all-in-all 
Cobbett and his readers, appeared quite secondary 
industrial Democracy, or the co-operative ownership ai 
control of industry answerable to the economic co-operatic 

The Disillusionment 155 

in all industrial processes which had been brought about 
by machinery and factory organisation, and which had 
removed manufacture irrevocably from the separate fire- 
sides of independent individual producers. With Cobbett 
and his followers the first thing to be done was to pass a 
great Reform Bill, behind which, in their minds, lay only 
a vague conception of social change. Owen and his more 
enthusiastic disciples, on the other hand, were persuaded 
that a universal voluntary association of workers for pro- 
ductive purposes on his principles would render the political 
organisation of society of comparatively trivial account. 

The disillusionment of the newly emancipated Trade 
Clubs in the collapse of 1825 left the working-class organisa- 
tions prepared for these wider gospels. Social reform was 
in the air. " Concerning the misery and degradation of 
the bulk of the people of England," writes a contemporary 

| observer, " men of every order, as well as every party, unite 
and speak continually ; farmers, parish officers, clergymen, 
magistrates, judges on the l?ench, members on either side 

1 of both Houses of Parliament, the King in his addresses 
to the nation, moralists, statesmen, philosophers ; and 
finally the poor creatures themselves, whose complaints 
are loud and incessant/' x Cobbett and the Reformers had 
the first turn. The chief political organisation of the 
working classes during the Reform Bill agitation began as 
a trade club. In 1831 a few carpenters met at their house 
of call in Argyle Street, Oxford Street, to form a " Metro- 
politan Trades Union," which was to include all trades, 
and to undertake, besides its Trade Union functions, a 
vague scheme of co-operative production and a political 
agitation for the franchise. 2 But under the influence of 

1 England and America : a Comparison of the Social and Political State 
of both Nations, 1833, 2 vols. 

2 Poor Man's Guardian, March 12, 1831 ; Place MSS. 27791 246, 

" There were seven Co-operative Congresses in the years 1830-5 
in which the Trade Union and Labour Exchange elements were prominent " 
(Prof. Foxwell's Introduction to The Right to the Full Produce of Labour, 
by Anton Menger. 1899). 

156 The Revolutionary Period 

William Lovett the last object soon thrust aside all the 
rest. The purely Trade Union aims were dropped ; the 
Owenite aspirations sank into the background ; and under 
/ the title of the " National Union of the Working Classes " 
the humble carpenters' society expanded into a national 
organisation for obtaining Manhood Suffrage. As such it 
occupies, during the political turmoil of 1831-2, by far the 
largest place in the history of working-class organisation, 
and was largely implicated in the agitation and disturbances 
connected with the Reform Bill. 1 

The Reform Bill came and passed, but no Manhood 
Suffrage. The effect of this disappointment at the hands 
of the most advanced political party in the country is thus 
described by Francis Place, now become an outside observer 
of the Trade Union Movement. " The year (1833) ended 
leaving the (National) Union (of the Working Classes) in 
a state of much depression. The nonsensical doctrines 
preached by Robert Owen and others respecting communi- 
ties and goods in common ; abundance of everything man 
ought to desire, and all for four hours' labour out of every 
twenty-four ; the right of every man to his share of the 
earth in common, and his right to whatever his hands had 
been employed upon ; the power of masters under the 1 
present system to give just what wages they pleased ; tl 
right of the labourer to such wages as would maintain hi] 
and his in comfort for eight or ten hours' labour ; the rigl 
of every man who was unemployed to employment and 
such an amount of wages as have been indicated- 
other matters of a similar kind which were contim 
inculcated by the working men's political unions, by m; 
small knots of persons, printed in small pamphlets 
handbills which were sold twelve for a penny and distribut< 
to a great extent had pushed politics aside . . . amoi 
the working people. These pamphlets were written alm< 
wholly by men of talent and of some standing in the worl 

1 See the volumes of the Poor Man's Guardian, preserved in 
British Museum. 

The Owenite Ideas 157 

professional men, gentlemen, manufacturers, tradesmen, and 
men called literary. The consequence was that a very large 
proportion of the working people in England and Scotland 
became persuaded that they had only to combine, as it was 
concluded they might easily do, to compel not only a con- 
siderable advance in wages all round, but employment for 
every one, man and woman, who needed it, at short hours. 
This notion induced them to form themselves into Trades 
Unions in a manner and to an extent never before known." * 
This jumble of ordinary Trade Union aims and com- 
munist aspirations, described from the hostile point of view 
of a fanatical Malthusian and staunch believer in the 
" Wage Fund," probably fairly represents the character 
of the Owenite propaganda. It made an ineradicable 
impression on the working-class leaders of that generation, 
and inspired the great surge of solidarity which rendered 
possible the gigantic enlistments of the Grand National, 
with its unprecedented regiments of agricultural labourers 
and women. Its enlargement of consciousness of the 
working class was no doubt a good in itself which no mistakes u 
in practical policy could wholly cancel. 2 But Owen did 

1 Place MSS. 27797 290 ; see a similar account in the Life of William 
Lovett, by himself, p. 86. James Mill writes to Lord Brougham on Sep- 
tember-3, 1832, as follows : " Nothing can be conceived more mischievous 
than the doctrines which have been preached to the common people. 
. . . The nonsense to which your lordship alludes about the right of the 
labourer to the whole produce of the country, wages, profits, and rent 
all included, is the mad nonsense of our friend Hodgskin, which he has 
published as a system, and propagates with the zeal of perfect fanaticism. 
. . . The illicit cheap publications, in which the doctrine of the right of 
the labouring people, who they say are the only producers, to all that is 
produced, is very generally preached, ... are superseding the Sunday 
newspapers and every other channel through which the people might get 
better information" (Bain's James Mitt, p. 363, 1882). The series of 
Socialist authors of these years, usually ignored, have been well described 
by Prof. Foxwell in his Introduction to the English translation of Menger's 
Right to the Whole Produce of Labour, 1899 ; and more fully and philosophic- 
ally in M. Beer's History of British Socialism, 1919, vol. i. 

"Owen's chief merit was that he filled the working classes with 
renewed hope at a time when the pessimism, both of orthodox economists 
and of their unorthodox opponents, had condemned labour to be an 
appendage of machinery, a mere commodity whose value, like that of ' 
all commodities, was determined by the bare cost of keeping up the 

158 The Revolutionary Period 

mischief as well as good ; and as both the evil and the good 
live after him for nothing that Owen did can yet be said 
to be interred with his bones it is necessary to examine 
his Trade Union doctrine in some detail. He was at his 
best when, as the experienced captain of industry, he 
denounced with fervent emphasis that lowering of the 
Standard of Life which was the result of the creed of uni- 
versal competition. It was to combat this that he advocated 
Factory Legislation, and promoted combinations "to fix 
a maximum time and a minimum wages " ; and it was by 
thus attempting to secure the workers' Standard of Life 
by legislation and Trade Union action that he gained the 
influential support, not only of philanthropists, but also of 
certain high-minded manufacturers, with whose aid he 
formed in December 1833 the " Society for National 
Regeneration," 1 to which we have already referred. Thej 
most definite proposal of this society, the shortening of thej 
hoars of labour to eight per day, was what led to th< 
suggestion of Fielden's on which the Lancashire cott( 
operatives acted in their abortive general strike for an eigl 
hours day. It also produced the long series of " Shoi 
Time Committees " in the textile towns whose persiste 
agitation eventually secured the passing of the Ten Hoi 
Bill, itself only an instalment of our great Factory 
History has emphatically justified Owen on this side of 
labour policy. 

But there was a Utopian side to it which acted moi 

necessary supply. Owen laid stress upon the human side of economic 
The object of industry was to produce happier and more contented 
and women " (The Chartist Movement, by Mark Hovell, 1918, p. 45). 

1 The prospectus of this Society is in the British Library of Politic 
Science at the London School of Economics. A copy is given in 
Morning Chronicle, December 7, 1833. Its Manchester meetings 
reported in the Crisis for November and December 1833. It seems 
have had for its organ a penny weekly called The Herald of the Rights 
Industry, some numbers of which are in the British Museum. Profes 
Foxwell has kindly drawn our attention to a further reference to it in 
Life of James Deacon Hume, p. 55. It excited the curiosity of the Hoi 
Secretary. See Home Office Papers, 40 31. 

Impracticable Ideals 159 

questionably. The working-class world became, under 
his influence, inflated with a premature conception and 
committed to an impracticable working scheme of social 
organisation. He proved himself an able thinker and 
seer when he pointed out that the horrible poverty of the 
time was a new economic phenomenon, the inevitable 
result of unfettered competition and irresponsible individual 
ownership of the means of production now that those 
means had become enormously expensive and yet compact 
enough to employ hundreds of men under the orders of a 
few, besides being so prodigiously efficient as to drive the 
older methods quite out of the market. But from the point 
of view of the practical statesman, it must be confessed 
that he also showed himself something of a simpleton in 
supposing, or at least assuming, that competition could be 
abolished and ownership socialised by organising voluntary 
associations to supersede both the millowners and the State. 
He had tried the experiment in America with the famous 
community of New Harmony, and its failure had for the time 
thoroughly disgusted him with communities. But his 
disgust was not disillusion, for its only practical effect was 
I to set him to repeat the experiment with the Trade Unions. 
Under his teaching the Trade Unionists came to believe that 
it was possible, by a universal non-political compact of the 
wage-earners, apparently through a universal expropriatory 
strike, to raise wages and shorten the hours of labour " to 
an extent," as Place puts it, " which, at no very distant 
time, would give them the whole proceeds of their labour." 
The function of the brain-worker as the director of industry 
was disregarded, possibly because in the cotton industry 
(in which Owen had made a fortune) it plays but an insigni- 
ficant part in the actual productive processes, and is mainly 
concerned with that pursuit of cheap markets to buy in 
and dear markets to sell in which formed no part of the 
Utopian commonwealth at which " the Trades Union " 
aimed. The existing capitalists and managers were there- 
fore considered as usurpers to be as soon as possible super- 

160 The Revolutionary Period 

seded by the elected representatives of" voluntary and 
sectional associations of producers, in which it seems to 
have been assumed all the brain-working technicians would 
be included. The modern Socialist proposal to substitute 
the officials of the Municipality or State was unthinkable at 
a period when all local governing bodies were notoriously 
inefficient and corrupt and Parliament practically an 
oligarchy. Under the system proposed by Owen the 
instruments of production were to become the property, 
not of the whole community, but of the particular set of 
workers who used them. " There is no other alternative," 
he said, " than National Companies 'for each trade. . . . 
Thus all those trades which relate to clothing shall form a 
company such as tailors, shoemakers, hatters, milliners, 
and mantua-makers ; and all the different manufacturers 
[i.e. operatives] shall be arranged in a similar way ; com- 
munications shall pass from the various departments to the 
Grand National establishment in London." In fact, the 
Trade Unions were to be transformed into " national 
companies " to carry on all the manufactures. 1 The Agri- 
cultural Union was to take possession of the land, t 
Miners' Union of the mines, the Textile Unions of the f; 
tories. Each trade was to be carried on by its particu 
Trade Union, centralised in one " Grand Lodge." 

Of all Owen's attempts to reduce his Socialism 
practice this was certainly the very worst. For his sho 
lived communities there was at least this excuse : th 
within their own area they were to be perfectly horn 
geneous little Communist States. There were to be 
conflicting sections ; and profit-making and competiti 
were to be effectually eliminated. But in " the Trad 
Union," as he conceived it, the mere combination of all 
workmen in a trade as co-operative producers no mo: 
abolished commercial competition than a combination 

1 See Owen's elaborate speech, reported in the Crisis, October i: 
1833 ; Robert Owen : a Biography, by Frank Podmore, 1906 ; and Tt 
Unionism, by C. M. Lloyd, 1915. 

" National Companies" 161 

all the employers in it as a Joint Stock Company. In effect 
his Grand Lodges would have been simply the head offices 
of huge Joint Stock Companies owning the entire means of 
production in their industry, and subject to no control by 
the community as a whole. They would therefore have 
been in a position at any moment to close their ranks and 
admit fresh generations of workers only as employees at 
competitive wages instead of as shareholders, thus creating 
at one stroke a new capitalist class and a new proletariat. 
Further, the improvident shareholders would soon have 
begun to sell their shares in order to spend their capital, 
and thus to drop with their children into the new proletariat ; 
whilst the enterprising and capable shareholders would 
equally have sold their shares to buy into other and momen- 
tarily more profitable trades. Thus there would have been 
not only a capitalist class and proletariat, but a speculative 
stock market. Finally there would have come a competi- 
tive struggle between the Joint Stock Unions to supplant 
one another in the various departments of industry. Thus 
the shipwrights, making wooden ships, would have found the 
boilermakers competing for their business by making iron 
ships, and would have had either to succumb or to trans- 
form their wooden ship capital into iron ship capital and 
pnter into competition with the boilermakers as commercial 
idvals in the same trade. This difficulty was staring Owen 
.n the face when he entered the Trade Union Movement ; 
or the trades, then as now, were in continual perplexity 
s to the exact boundaries between them ; for example, 
tie minute-books of the newly formed Joiners' Society in 
Glasgow (whose secretary was a leading Owenite) show 
tiat its great difficulty was the demarcation of its trade 
gainst the cabinetmaker and the engineer-patternmaker, 
ach of whom claimed certain technical operations as proper 
o himself alone. In short, the Socialism of Owen led him 
o propose a practical scheme which was not even socialistic, 
nd which, if it could possibly have been carried out, would 
ave simply arbitrarily redistributed the capital of the 

, G 

162 The Revolutionary Period 

country without altering or superseding the capitalist 
system in the least. 

All this will be so obvious to those who comprehend 
our capitalist system that they will have some difficulty 
in believing that it could have escaped so clever a man 
and so experienced and successful a capitalist as Owen. 
How far he made it a rule to deliberately shut his eyes to 
the difficulties that met him, from a burning conviction 
that any change was better than leaving matters entirely 
alone, cannot even be guessed ; but it is quite certain that 
he acted in perfect good faith, simply not knowing thoroughly 
what he was about. He had a boundless belief in the power 
of education to form character ; and if any scheme promised 
just sufficient respite from poverty and degradation to 
enable him and his disciples to educate one generation of| 
the country's children, he was ready to leave all economic 
consequences to be dealt with by " the New Moral World " 
which that generation's Owenite schooling would have 
created. Doubtless he thought that " the Trades Union" 
promised him this much ; and besides, he did not foresee 
its economic consequences. He was disabled by thatj 
confident sciolism and prejudice which has led generations 
of Socialists to borrow from Adam Smith and the " classic 
economists the erroneous theory that labour is by it 
the creator of value, without going on to master 
impregnable and more difficult law of economic rent - 
is the very corner-stone of collectivist economy. He t 
his economics from his friend William Thompson, 1 who, 
Hodgskin and Hodgskin's illustrious disciple, Karl 
ignored the law of rent in his calculations, and taught 
all exchange values could be measured in terms of " la 

1 Inquiry into the Principles of the Distribution of Wealth most 
ducive to Human Happiness, by William Thompson, 1824 ; also his La 
Rewarded, the Claims of Labour and Capital ; How to secure to Labour 
whole Product of its Exertions, by One of the Idle Classes, 1827 ; see ~ 
fessor Fox-well's Introduction to The Right to the whole Produce of Lai 
by Anton Menger, 1899 ; History of British Socialism, by M. Beer, 19] 
vol. i. ; and The Irish Labour Movement, by W. P. Ryan, 1919, ch. iii. 

The Nature of Value 163 

ime" alone. Part of the Owenite activity of the time 

ictually resulted in the opening of labour bazaars, in which 

he prices were fixed in minutes. The fact that it is the 

;onsumer's demand which gives to the product of labour 

my exchange- value at all, and that the extent and elasticity 

>f this demand determines how much has to be produced ; 

tnd the other governing consideration, namely, that the 

expenditure of labour required to bring articles of the same 

lesirability to market varies enormously according to 

latural differences in fertility of soil, distance to be traversed, 

>roximity to good highways, waterways, or ports, accessi- 

>ility of water-power or steam fuel, and a hundred other 

ircumstances, including the organising ability and execu- 

ive dexterity of the producer, found themselves left entirely 

>ut of account. Owen assumed that the labour of the miner 

ind that of the agricultural labourer, whatever the amount 

Ind nature of the product of each of them, would spontan- 

ously and continuously exchange with each other equitably 

t par of hours and minutes when the miners had received a 

lonopoly of the bowels of the country, and the agricultural 

jibourers of its skin. He did not even foresee that the 

ners' Union might be inclined to close its ranks against 

wcomers from the farm labourers, or that the Agricultural 

lion might refuse to cede sites for the Builders' Union to 

rk upon. In short, the difficult economic problem of 

e equitable sharing of the advantages of superior sites 

d opportunities never so much as occurred to the en- 

usiastic Owenite economists of this period. 

One question, and that the most immediately important 

all, was never seriously faced : How was the transfer 

the industries from the capitalists to the Unions to be 

ected in the teeth of a hostile and well-armed Govern- 

ent ? The answer must have been that the overwhelming 

mbers of " the Trades Union " would render conflict 

possible. His enthusiastic disciple, William Benbow, suc- 

5sively a shoemaker, bookseller, and coffee-house keeper, 

rented the instrument of the General Strike a sacred 

164 The Revolutionary Period 

" holiday month " prepared for and participated in by th< 
entire wage-earning class, the mere " passive resistance " o: 
which would, without violence or conflict, bring down al 
existing institutions. Whether this was in Owen's mine 
in 1834, as it was in 1839, avowedly in those of th< 
Chartists, is uncertain. 1 At all events, Owen, like the earlj 
Christians, habitually spoke as if the Day of Judgment o: 
the existing order of society was at hand. The next sb 
months, in his view, were always going to see the " Nev 
Moral World " really established. The change from th< 
capitalist system to a complete organisation of industn 
under voluntary associations of producers was to " com- 
suddenly upon society like a thief in the night." " On! 
year," comments his disciple, " may disorganise the whol 
fabric of the old world, and transfer, by a sudden spring 
the whole political government of the country from th 
master to the servant." 2 It is impossible not to regre 
that the first introduction of the English Trade Unionist t 
Socialism should have been effected by a foredoomed sche 
which violated every economic principle of Collecti 
and left the indispensable political preliminaries to pui 

It was under the influence of these large plans 
confident hopes that the Trade Unions were embolden 
adopt the haughty attitude and contemptuous 
towards the masters which provoked Manchester 
Liverpool employers to meet the challenge of the Buil 
Union by " the Document." The " intolerable tyr 
of the Unions, so much harped on by contemporary wri 
represents, to a large extent, nothing more than the ra 

1 The pamphlet, entitled The Grand National Holiday and Cc 
the Productive Classes, by William Benbow, 1831, had an extensive 
lation. Mark Hovell (The Chartist Movement, 1918, p. 91) thinks he 
the same William Benbow whom Bamford mentions as a delegate 
Manchester in 1817 (Life of a Radical, p. 8), and whom Henry 
describes as of the Manchester Hampden Club, and as having been! 
ported by a Government spy to be manufacturing pikes in 1816 
Green Bag Plot, 1918). 

a Leading article in the Crisis, October 12, 1833. 

Why the Unions were Insolent 165 

bumptious expression of the Trade Unionists' feeling that 
they were the rightful directors of industry, entitled to choose 
the processes, and select their fellow-workers, and even their 
managers and foremen. And it must be remembered that 
this occurred at a period when class prejudice was so strong 
that any attempt at a parley made by the workers, however 
respectfully, was regarded as presumptuous and unbecoming. 
Hence the working class had always too much reason to 
believe that civility on their part would be thrown away. 
It is certain that during the Owenite intoxication the 
impracticable expectations of national dominion on the 
part of the wage-earners were met with an equally unreason- 
able determination by the governing classes to keep the 
working men in a state not merely of subjection, but of 
[abject submission. The continued exclusion of the work- 
|men from the franchise made constitutional action on their 
| side impossible. The employers, on the other hand, used 
I their political and magisterial power against the men 
Iwithout scruple, inciting a willing Government to attack 
ithe workmen's combinations by every possible perversion 
jof the law, and partiality in its administration. Regarding 
'absolute control over the conduct of their workpeople as a 
\sine qua non of industrial organisation, even the genuine 
philanthropists among them insisted on despotic authority 
n the factory or workshop. Against the abuse of this 
authority there was practically no guarantee. On the 
ther side it can be shown that large sections of the wage- 
earners were not only moderate in their demands, but 
submissive in their behaviour. As a rule, wherever we find 
exceptional aggression and violence on the part of the 
peratives, we discover exceptional tyranny on the side of 
:he employers. To give an example or two, the continual 
mtrages which disgrace the annals of Glasgow Trade Union- 
sm for the first forty years of this century are accounted 
or by the reports of the various Parliamentary Inquiries 
vhich mark out the Glasgow millowners as extraordinarily 
lutocratic in their views and tyrannous in their conduct. 

i66 The Revolutionary Period 

Again, the aggressive conduct of certain sections of the 
building trades is frequently complained of in the capitalist 
press between 1830-40. But the agreements which the 
large contractors of that time required " all those to sign 
who enter into their employ," printed copies of which are 
still extant, show that the demands of the employers were 
intolerably arbitrary. 1 Then there is the case of the miners 
of Great Britain, who were in very ill repute for riotous 
proceedings from 1837-44. The provocation they received 
may be judged from a manifesto issued by Lord London- 
derry in his dual capacity as mine-owner and Lord-Lieu- 
tenant of Durham County during the great strike of the 
miners in 1844 for fairer terms of hiring. He not only 
superintends, as Lord-Lieutenant, the wholesale eviction o: 
the strikers from their homes, and their supersession by 
Irishmen specially imported from his Irish estates, but he 
peremptorily orders the resident traders in " his town oi 
Seaham," on pain of forfeiting his custom and protection 
to refuse to supply provisions to the workmen engaged hi 
what he deems " an unjust and senseless warfare agains\ 
their proprietors and masters." 2 The same intolerance) 

1 A specimen dated 1837 is preserved by the Stonemasons' Society 
according to which a Liverpool contractor bound all his employees t< 
serve him at a fixed wage for a long term of years, any time lost by sick| 
ness or otherwise not to be paid for and to be added to the term ; al 
" lawful commands " to be obeyed ; and no present or future club o: 
other society to be joined without the employer's consent. 

2 See his manifestoes reprinted in Northern Star, July 6 and July 
1844. " Lord Londonderry again warns all the shopkeepers and ti 
men in his town of Seaham that if they still give credit to pitmen 
hold off work, and continue in the Union, such men will be marked 
his agents and overmen, and will never be employed in his collieries again 
and the shopkeepers may be assured that they will never have any custon; 
or dealings with them from Lord Londonderry's large concerns that hi 
can in any manner prevent. 

" Lord Londonderry further informs the traders and shopkeej 
that having by his measures increased very largely the last year's 
to Seaham, and if credit is so improperly and so fatally given to 
unreasonable pitmen, thereby prolonging the injurious strike, it is 
firm determination to carry back all the outlay of his concerns even 

" Because it is neither fair, just, or equitable that the resident 
in his own town should combine and assist the infatuated workmen 

The Close of Owenism 167 

marks the magazines and journals of the dominant classes 
of the period. It seems to have been habitually taken for 
granted that the workman had not merely to fulfil his 
contract of service, but to yield implicit obedience in the 
details of his working life to the will of his master. Com- 
binations and strikes on the part of the " lower orders " 
were regarded as futile and disorderly attempts to escape 
from their natural position of social subservience. In 
short, the majority of employers, even in this time of negro 
emancipation, seem to have been unconsciously acting upon 
the dictum subsequently attributed to J. C. Calhoun, the 
defender of American slavery, that " the true solution of 
the contest of all time between labour and capital is that 
capital should own the labourer whether white or black." 

The closing scene of Owen's first and last attempt at 
" the Trades Union " shows how ephemeral had been his 
participation in the real life of the Trade Union Movement. 
In August 1834 ne called together one of his usual mis- 
cellaneous congresses, consisting of delegates from all kinds 
of Owenite societies, with a few from the Grand National 
and other Trade Unions. At this congress the " Grand 
National Consolidated Trades Union," which was to have 

rought to its feet Government, landlords, and employers, 
was formally converted into the " British and Foreign 
Consolidated Association of Industry, Humanity, and 
knowledge," having for its aim the establishment of a 

New Moral World " by the reconciliation of all classes. 
Beyond one or two small and futile experiments in 
co-operative production, it had attempted nothing to 
realise Owen's Utopia. Its whole powers had been spent, 
seemingly with his own consent, in a series of aggressive 
strikes. For all that, Owen's meteoric appearance in the 
Trade Union World left a deep impression on the movement. 
The minute-books and other contemporary records of the 
Trade Unions of the next decade abound in Owenite 

pitmen in prolonging their own miseries by continuing an insane strike, 
nd an unjust and senseless warfare against their proprietors and masters." 

1 68 The Revolutionary Period 

phraseology, such as the classification of Society into the 
" idle " and the " industrious " classes, the latter apparently 
meaning and being certainly understood to mean only 
the manual workers. More important is the persistence of 

/ the idea that the Trade Unions, as Associations of Producers, 
should recover control of the instruments of production. 
From this time forth innumerable attempts were made, by 
one Trade Union or another, to employ its own members 
in Productive Co-operation. A long series of industrial 
disasters, culminating in the great losses of 1874, has, even 
now, scarcely eradicated the last remnant of this Joint Stock 
Individualism from the idealists of the Trade Union Move-| 
ment ; or taught them to distinguish accurately between i 
it and the demonstrably successful Co-operative Production | 
of the Associations of Consumers which constitute thei 
Co-operative Movement of to-day. Outside the organised 
ranks his effect upon general working-class opinion was, as 
Place remarks, enormous, as we could abundantly showi 
were we here concerned with the " Union Shops," " Equil 
able Labour Exchanges," and industrial communitie 
which may be considered the most direct result of 
Owenite propaganda, or with the fortunes of the innurru 
able co-operative associations of producers, whose delegal 
formed the backbone of the Owenite congresses of th( 
years. 1 

The Trade Union Movement was not absolutely left fc 

y dead when^Owen quitted the field. The skilled mechj 
of the printing and engineering trades had, as we 
presently see, held aloof from the general movement, 
their trade clubs were unaffected either by the Owenil 
boom or its subsequent collapse. In some other trades 
inflation of 1830-4 spread itself over a few more years. 
Potters' Union went on increasing in strength, and in 18- 
gained a notable victory over the employers, when a " Gn 
Book of Prices " was agreed to, which long remained famoi 

1 Some account of these developments will be found in The Co-opera 
Movement in Great Britain, by Beatrice Potter (Mrs. Sidney Webb). 

The Survival of Trade Unionism 169 

in the trade. Renewed demands led to the formation by 
the employers of a Chamber of Commerce to resist the men's 
iggression. The " yearly bond " was rigidly insisted upon, 
md a great strike ensued, which ended in 1837 m the 
somplete collapse of the Union. 1 In 1836 the Scottish 
:ompositors formed the General Typographical Association 
Df Scotland, which for a few years exercised an effective 
:ontrol over the trade. The same year saw a notable strike 
by the Preston Cotton-spinners, from which is dated the 
general adoption of the self-acting mule. 2 But the most 
permanent effect is seen in the building trades. The 
national Unions of Plumbers and Carpenters have preserved 
m unbroken existence down to the present day, 3 whilst 
:he Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons remained 
'or nearly another half century one of the most powerful of 
English Unions. The fortnightly circulars of the English 
Stonemasons reveal, for a few years, not only a vigorous 
ife and quick growth, but also many successful short strikes 
!o secure Working Rules and to maintain Tune Wages, 
"he Scottish Stonemasons are referred to as being even 
acre active and influential in trade regulation, and as having 
ncluded practically all the Scottish masons. There is evi- 
.ence, too, of informal federal action between the National 
Jnions of Stonemasons, Carpenters, and Bricklayers. 
Jnfortunately the absence of such modern machinery of 
rganisation as Trades Councils, Trade Union Congresses, 

1 The collapse was duly reported to the Home Secretary (Home Office 
apers, 4033, 34, 35). 

* See Ashworth's paper before British Association, 1837 ; Remarks 
bon the Importance of an Inquiry into the Amount and Appropriation of 
'ages by the Working Classes, by W. Felkin, 1837 ; Appeal to the Public 
om the United Trades of Preston, February 14, 1837 (in Home Office 
apers, 4035)- 

1 The United Society of Operative Plumbers (reorganised 1848) still 
minates its branch of the trade, and retains traces of the federal con- 
tution of the Builders' Union. The sister organisation of carpenters 
ow styled the General Union of Carpenters and Joiners) has been over- 
ken and overshadowed by the newer Amalgamated Society of Carpenters 
id Joiners ; whilst the Operative Bricklayers' Society has absorbed 
actically all the older societies in its own branch of the trade. 


170 The Revolutionary Period 

and standing joint committees prevented the scattered 
sectional organisations from forming any general movement. 
This state of things was broken into during the year 1837 
by the sensational strikes in Glasgow, the prolonged legal 
prosecution and severe punishment of their leaders, and the 
appointment of a Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry into 
the results of the repeal of the Combination Laws. 

We do not propose to enter here into the details of the 
famous trial of the five Glasgow cotton-spinners for con- 
spiracy, violent intimidation, and for the murder of fellow- 
workers. But it is one of the " leading cases " of Trade 
Union history, and the manifestations of feeling which it 
provoked show to the depths the state of mind of the 
working classes. 1 The evidence given in court, and repeated 
before the Select Committee of 1838, leaves no reasonable 
doubt that the Cotton-Spinners' Union in its corporatej 
capacity had initiated a reign of terror extending overi 
twenty years, and that some of the incriminated members 
had been personally guilty not of instigation alone, but oi 
actual violence, if not of murder. In spite of this, the whole 
body of working-class opinion was on their side, and the 

1 Glasgow was still the principal centre of the cotton industry, esj 
ally in weaving. In 1838 there were in the Glasgow area about 36,< 
handlooms devoted mainly to cotton, with two persons to a loom, wl 
in all Lancashire there were only 25,000 (Parliamentary Papers, 
of 1849 and xxiv. of 1840 ; The Chartist Movement, by Mark Hovell, 191 
p. 14). Combination among the cotton operatives of Glasgow was of 
standing. After the strike of 1812, already referred to, trouble 
out again in 1820 and 1822, when outrages were committed (Arts 
Artisans, by J. G. Symons, 1839, p. 137). 

Besides securing full reports in the newspapers, the Trade 
committee conducting the case published at a low price an account 
the trial in parts, which has not been preserved. Two other exhaustn 
reports were issued, and may still be consulted, viz. Report of the trial 
Thomas Hunter and other operative cotton- spinners in Glasgow in 1838, 
Archibald Swinton (Edinburgh, 1838), and The trial of Thomas Hunter, 
the Glasgow Cotton-spinners, by James Marshall (Glasgow, 1838). See 
the Autobiography of Sir Archibald Alison, 1883; the Northern Star 
1837-8; the Annual Register for 1838, pp. 206-7; an d the evide 
before the Select Committee on Combinations, 1838. A summary 
be found in Howell's Labour Legislation, Labour Movements and 
Leaders, 1902, pp. 83-4. 

The Glasgow Spinners 171 

sentence of seven years' transportation was received with as 
much indignation as that upon the Dorchester labourers 
[our years before. This was one of the natural effects of 
the class despotism and scarcely veiled rebellion which we 
iave already described. The use of violence by working 
men, either against obnoxious employers or against traitors 
in their own ranks, was regarded in much the same way 
is the political offences of a subject race under foreign 
iominion. Such deeds did not, in fact, necessarily indicate 
my moral turpitude on the part of the perpetrators. No 
Dne accused the five Glasgow cotton-spinners of bad private 
character or conduct, and at least four out of the five were 
men of acknowledged integrity and devotedness. 1 Their 
unjust treatment whilst awaiting trial, and still more 
their sentence to transportation, enlisted the sympathy of 
the Parliamentary Radicals, and Wakley, the member for 
iFinsbury, did not hesitate to bring their case before the 
iftouse of Commons as one of legal persecution and injustice. 
At this time the trade societies of Dublin and Cork had 
baused serious complaint by attempting to establish, and 
lot without violence, an effective monopoly in certain 
killed industries. Their action had been reproved by 
Daniel O'Connell, whom they, in their turn, had repudiated 
.d denounced. O'Connell defeated Wakley's friendly 
otion for an inquiry into the cotton-spinners' case by 
serious indictment of Trade Unionism. By a clever 
nalysis of the rules of the Irish societies, which he made 
ut to be purely obstructive and selfish, he condemned, in 
speech of great power, all attempts on the part of trade 
>mbinations to regulate the conditions of labour. The 
ell-established methods of modern Trade Unionism, such 
s the maintenance of a minimum rate, received from him 
le same condemnation as the unsocial and oppressive 

1 The five prisoners were pardoned in 1840, in consequence of their 
:emplary conduct. There is a joint letter by them in the Trades Journal 
r August, 1840, relating to the subscriptions raised for them by a 
ondon committee. 

172 The Revolutionary Period 

monopolies for which the Irish trades had long been 
notorious. The Government met this speech by granting 
a Select Committee under Sir Henry Parnell to inquire 
into the whole question ; and Trade Unionism accordingly 
\ found itself once more on its defence as a permanent element 
;in social organisation. The case of the Glasgow cotton- 
spinners and the appointment of this Parliamentary Com- 
mittee for the moment revived the sentiment of solidarity 
in the Trade Union world. A joint committee of the 
Glasgow trades was formed to collect subscriptions for 
the defence of the prisoners ; and communications forj 
this purpose were made to all the known Trade Unions.! 
Considerable funds were subscribed, as the trial was 
repeatedly postponed at great expense to the prisoners;! 
and when at last, in January, 1838, they were convicted] 
and sentenced, a combined agitation for some mitigation! 
of their punishment was begun. By this time it had become 1 
known that some kind of inquiry into Trade Unionism wasj 
in contemplation. The Unions at once set their house 
order. The Stonemasons, who had already given up 
administration of oaths, resolved, for greater security 
illegal practices, " that all forms of regalia, initiation, 
passwords be dispensed with and entirely abolished." 
The Dublin Plasterers formally suspended their exclusi) 
rules, and deferred the issue of a new edition until 
the inquiry. 2 In Glasgow, the chief seat of the disorc 
many societies among others, the local Carpent< 
deliberately burned their minute-books and archives fc 
the past year. The London societies appointed a 
mittee, " The London Trades Combination Committee,' 
to conduct the Unionist case in the Parliamentary inquiry 
Lovett, then well known as a Radical politician, 
secretary, and issued a stirring address to the Trade Unioi 
throughout the country, asking for subscriptions and 

1 Stonemasons' Fortnightly Circular, January 19, 1838. 
* Evidence of W. Darcy, the secretary, second report of 1838 
mittee, p. 130. 

The Parliamentary Inquiry 173 

lence. 1 But the Parliamentary Committee proved both 
>erfunctory and inconclusive. The Government, which 
iad conceded it merely to rid itself of the importunity of 
Vakley on the one hand and O'Connell on the other, had 
vidently no intention of taking any action on the subject ; 
,nd the Committee, always thinly attended, made no attempt 
.1^ general inquiry, and confined itself practically to Dublin 
,nd Glasgow. O'Connell got the opportunity he desired 
>f demonstrating, through selected witnesses, the violent 
jid exclusive spirit which animated the Irish Unions. With 
egard to Glasgow, the chief witness was Sheriff, afterwards 
>ir Archibald, Alison, whose vigorous action had quelled 
he cotton-spinners in that city. It was scarcely necessary 
o call witnesses on behalf of the Unions ; but John Doherty, 
hen become a master-printer and bookseller, was allowed 
io describe the Manchester spinners' organisation and the 
ll-fated associations of 1829-31. The inquiry resulted 
p nothing but the presentation to the House of two 
i'olumes of evidence, without even so much as a report, 
it seems to have been expected that the Committee would 
pe reappointed to complete its task ; but when the next 
Session came the matter was quietly dropped. 2 

The temporary fillip given by the cotton-spinntrs' trial 
,nd the Parliamentary Committee did not stoj/the steady 
|lecline of Trade Unionism throughout the country. Trade, 
|/hich had been on the wane since 1836, grew suddenly 
l/orse. The decade closed with three of the leanest years 
ver known ; and widespread distress prevailed. The 
lembership of the surviving Trade Unions rapidly de- 
reased. The English Stonemasons, perhaps the strongest 

1 Circular dated March i, 1838, in Stonemasons' archives ; and An 
<&frs from the London Trades Committee appointed to watch the Parlia- 
entary Inquiry into Combinations, 1838. 

* George Howell suggests, we are not sure with what authority, that 
assau Senior, whose report on Trade Unionism to the Home Secretary 
i 1830 we have already described, tendered this to Sir Henry Parnell as 
ie basis of a report by the Committee of 1838, but the proposal was 
ot accepted (Labour Legislation, Labour Movements and Labour Leaders, 
902, pp. 83-4). See also The Irish Labour Movement, by W. P. Ryan, 1919. 

174 The Revolutionary Period 

of the contemporary societies, reduced themselves, in 1841, 
temporarily, to absolute bankruptcy by their disastrous 
strike against an obnoxious foreman on the rebuilding of 
the Houses of Parliament. The Scottish Stonemasons' 
Society, of equal or greater strength, collapsed at about 
the same time, from causes not known to us. The Glasgow 
trades had been completely disorganised by the disasters! 
of 1837. The Lancashire textile operatives showed no sign| 
of life ; whilst such growing societies as the Ironfounders, 
the Journeymen Steam-Engine Makers and Millwrights, 
and the Boilermakers were crippled by the heavy drafts! 
made upon their funds by unemployed members. The' 
state of mind of the working classes was no more propitiousj 
than the state of trade. Fierce discontent and sullen anger; 

* are the characteristics of this period. Hatred of the New; 

L Jfofir Law, of the iniquitous taxes on food, of the general 
oppression by the dominant classes, blazes out in the Trade) 
Union records of the time. The agitation for the " Sia[ 
Points," set on foot by Lovett and others in the Working 
Men's Association of 1836, became the centre of working-! 
class aspiration. The Northern Star, started at the encj 
of 1837, rapidly distanced all other provincial journals ill 
circulation. The lecturers of the Anti-Corn Law Leagu<| 
increased the popular discontent, even when their o 
particular panacea failed to find acceptance. A gen 
despair of constitutional reform led to the growing su 
macy of the " Physical Force " section of the Charti 
and to the insurrectionism of 1839-42. 

The political developments of these years are ou 
the scope of this work. The Chartist Movement pla 
the most important part in working-class annals 
1837 to 1842, and does not quit the stage until I 
Made respectable by sincerity, devotion, and even heroi 
in the rank and file, it was disgraced by the fustian 
many of its orators and the political and economic quack 
of its pretentious and incompetent leaders whose jealo 
and intrigues, by successively excluding all the no 

The Chartist Strikes 175 

elements, finally brought it to nought. An adequate history 
of it would be of extreme value to our young Democracy. 1 
Here it is only necessary to say that whilst the Chartist 
Movement commanded the support of the vast majority 
]of the manual-working wage-earners, outside the ranks of 
those who were deeply religious, there is no reason to believe 
that the Trade Unions at any time became part and parcel 
of the Movement, as they had, during 1833-4, f the Owenite 
agitation, though some of their members furnished the most 
jardent supporters of the Charter. Individual trades, such 
las the shoemakers, seem to have' been thoroughly permeated 
Iwith Chartism, and were always attempting to rally other 
;trade societies to the cause. The angry strikes of 1842 in 
(Lancashire and the Midlands, fostered, as some said, by 
the Anti-Corn Law League, were " captured " by the 
(Chartists, and almost converted into political rebellions. 
Die delegate meeting of the Lancashire and Yorkshire trade 
pubs, which was conducting the " general strike " then in 
progress " for the wages of 1840," resolved in August 1842 
:o recommend all wage-earners " to cease work until the 
Charter becomes the law of the land." 2 For a few weeks, 
ndeed, it looked as if the Trade Union Movement, such as 
t was, would become merged in the political current. But 
:he manifest absurdity of persuading starving men to 
remain on strike until the whole political machinery of the 
:ountry had been altered, must have quickly become 
ipparent to the shrewder Trade Unionists. When Chartist 

1 A series of subsequent publications has now gone far to fill this gap. 
^he Chartist Movement, by R. G. Gammage (republished 1894), may 
LOW be supplemented by The Life of Francis Place, by Professor Graham 
Vallas (revised edition, 1918) ; Le Chartisme, 1830-48, by E. Dolleans, 
vols. (Paris, 1912-13) ; The Chartist Movement, by Mark Hovell, 1918; 
"he Social and Economic Aspects of the Chartist Movement, by F. F. 
Rosenblatt (New York, 1916) ; The Decline of the Chartist Movement, by 
?. W. Slosson (New York, 1916) ; Chartism and the Churches, by H. V. 
Faulkner (New York, 1916) ; Die Entstehung und die okonomischen Grund- 
dtze der Chartistenbewegung , by John Tildsley (Jena, 1898) ; and especi- 
lly by the two separate volumes on the History of British Socialism, 
y M. Beer, 1919 and 1920. 

8 Northern Star, August 20, 1842. 

176 The Revolutionary Period 

meetings at Sheffield were calling for a " general strike " 
to obtain the Charter, the secretaries of seven local Unions 
/wrote to the newspapers explaining that their trades had 
nothing to do with the meetings or the resolutions. 1 It must 
be remembered in this connection that the number of Trade 
Unionists was, in these years, relatively small probably 
not so great as a hundred thousand in the whole kingdom 
so that they could not have formed any appreciable pro- 
portion of the two, three or four million adherents that the 
Chartist leaders were in the habit of claiming. And it 
may be doubted whether in any case a Trade Union itself, 
as distinguished from particular members who happened 
to be delegates, made any formal profession of adherence 
to Chartism. In the contemporary Trade Union records 
that are still extant, such as those of the Bookbinders, 
Compositors, Ironfounders, Cotton-spinners, Steam-engine 
makers, and Stonemasons, there are no traces of Chartist 
resolutions ; although denunciations of the " Notorious 
New Poor Law oppression " abound in the Fortnightly 
Circular of the Stonemasons ; 2 whilst the Ironfounde 
Compositors, and Cotton-spinners pass resolutions in favoi 
of Free Trade. A partial explanation of this reticence 
the more exciting topic of the Charter is doubtless to 
found in the frequently adopted rule excluding polil 
and religion from Trade Union discussions a rule whic 
was, in 1842, protested against by an enthusiastic Chai 
delegate from the Bookbinders at the Manchester 
ference. 3 There must, however, have been something nx 
than mere obedience to the rule in the unwillingness of 
trade societies to be mixed up with the Chartist agitatk 
The rule had not prevented the organised trades of 1831- 

1 Sheffield Iris, August 1842. 

2 See, for instance, that for October 1839. 

8 Northern Star, August 20, 1842. " It is clear that the trade 
as a whole stood outside the Chartist Movement, though many Trac 
Unionists were no doubt Chartists too. The societies could not be 
duced to imperil their funds and existence at the orders of the Cl 
Convention " (The Chartist Movement, by Mark Hovell, 1918, p. 169). 

The Trade Union Refusal 177 

from taking a prominent part in the Reform Bill Movement. 

The banners of the Edinburgh trade clubs were conspicuous 

in the public demonstration on the rejection of the Bill of 

1831. When the House of Lords gave way, the Birmingham 

Trade Unions themselves organised a triumphal procession, 

which was discountenanced by the middle class. 1 The 

records of the London Brushmakers show that they even 

subscribed from the Union funds to Reform associations. 

But we never find the trade societies of 1839-42 contributing 

I to Chartist funds, or even collecting money for Chartist 

victims. The cases of Frost, Williams, and Jones, the 

Newport rebels of 1839, were at least as deserving of the 

1 working-class sympathy as those of the Glasgow cotton- 

i spinners. But the Trade Unions showed no inclination 

to subscribe money or get up petitions in aid of them. 

" Never," writes Fergus O'Connor, in 1846, " was there more 

i criminal apathy than that manifested by the trades of Great 

I Britain to the sufferings of those men ; " and he adds, " that 

if one half that was done for the Dorchester labourers or 

the Glasgow cotton-spinners had been done for Frost, 

Williams, and Jones, they would long since have been 

restored." 2 

Insurrectionism, whether Owenite or Chartist, was, in 
fact, losing its attraction for the working-class mind. 
Robert Owen's economic axioms of the extinction of profit 
and the elimination of the profit-maker were, during these 
jvery years, passing into the new Co-operative Movement, 
inaugurated in 1844 by the Rochdale Pioneers. The 
believers in a " new system of society," to be brought 
about by universal agreement, were henceforth to be found 
in the ranks of the commercial-minded Co-operators rather 
than in those of the militant Trade Unionists. Chartism, 
meanwhile, had degenerated from Lovett's high ideal of a 
complete political democracy to an ignoble scramble for the 

1 History of Birmingham, by W. Hutton (Birmingham, edition of 
1835), P- M9. 

* Northern Star, August 24, 1846. 

178 The Revolutionary Period 

ownership of small plots of land. The example of the 
French Revolution of 1848 fanned the dying embers for 
a few weeks into a new flame ; and many of the London 
trades swung into the somewhat theatrical fete of April 10, 
1848, swelling the procession against which the Duke of 
Wellington had marshalled the London middle class. , But 
the danger of revolution had passed awajr. A new genera- 
tion of workmen was growing up, to whom the worst of 
the old oppression was unknown, and who had imbibed 
the economic and political philosophy of the middle-class 
reformers. Bentham, Ricardo, and Grote were read only v 
by a few ; but the activity of such popular educationalists 
as Lord Brougham and Charles Knight propagated " useful 
knowledge " to all the members of the Mechanics' Institutes 
and the readers of the Penny Magazine. The middle-class 
ideas of " free enterprise " and " unrestricted competition " 
which were thus diffused received a great impetus from the 
extraordinary propaganda of the Anti-Corn Law League, 
and the general progress of Free Trade. Fergus O'Connor 
and Bronterre O'Brien struggled in vain against the growing 
dominance of Cobden and Bright as leaders of working- 
class opinion. And so we find in the Trade Union recoi 
of 1847-8, that vigorous resistance begins to be made to 
any movement in support of the old ideals. The Ste* 
Engine Makers' Society suspended some of their branche 
for depositing the branch funds in Fergus O'Connor's Lai 
Bank. When two branches of the Stonemasons' Society 
propose the same investment, the others indignantly pro- 
test against it as an absurd political speculation. And it 
is significant that these protests came, not from the cautioi 
elders whose enthusiasm had outlived many failures, but 
from those who had never shared the old faith. When 
in 1848 the Yorkshire Woolstaplers proposed to take a 
farm upon which to set to work their unemployed men, it 
was the younger members, as we are expressly told, who 
strenuously but vainly resisted this action, which resulted 
ruinously for the society. v 

The End of Insurrectionist, 179 

All this makes the close of the " revolutionary " period 
of the Trade Union Movement. For the next quarter of 
century we shall watch the development of the new 
ideas and the gradual building up of the great " amalga- 
mated " societies of skilled artisans, with their centralised 
administration, friendly society benefits, and the substitu- 
tion, wherever possible, of Industrial Diplomacy for the 
ruder methods of the Class War. 



WE have seen the magnificent hopes of 1829-42 ending 
in bitter disillusionment : we shall now see the Trade 
Unionists of the next generation largely successful in 
reaching their more limited aims. Laying aside all projects 
of Social Revolution, they set themselves resolutely to resist 
the worst of the legal and industrial oppressions from which 
they suffered, and slowly built up for this purpose organisa- 
tions which have become integral parts of the structure of 
a modern industrial state. This success we attribute mainly 
to the spread of education among the rank and file, and the 
more practical counsels which began, after 1842, to influenc 
the Trade Union world. But we must not overlook the 
effect ' of economic changes. The period between 1825 
and 1848 was remarkable for the frequency and acuteness 
of its commercial depressions. From 1850 industrial 
expansion was for many years both greater and steadier 
than in any previous period. 1 It is no mere coincidence 

1 Between 1850 and 1874 there was (except, perhaps, during the 
American Civil War) no falling off in the value of our export trade com- 
parable to the serious declines of 1826, 1829, 1837, 1842, and 1848. We 
do not pretend to account for this difference, but may remind the reader 
of the coincident increase in the production of gold, the influence of Free 
Trade and railways, and, as the bimetallists would tell us, the currency 
arrangements which were brought to an end in 1873. 


Revival of Trade Unionism 181 

that these years of prosperity saw the adoption by the 

Trade Union world of a " New Model " of organisation, 

under which Trade Unionism obtained a financial strength, 

i a trained staff of salaried officers, and a permanence of 

I membership hitherto unknown. 

^The predominance of Chartism over Trade Unionism 

i was confined to the bad times of 1837-42. Under the 

I influence of the rapid improvement and comparative pro- 

l sperity which followed, the Chartist agitation dwindled 

! away ; and a marked revival in Trade Unionism took 

effect in the re-establishment, about 1843, of the Potters' 

Union, and of an active Cotton - spinners' Association, 

and, in 1845, by the amalgamation of the metropolitan 

and provincial societies of compositors into the National 

Typographical Society. 1 The powerful United Flint Glass 

Makers' Society (reorganised in 1849 * as * ne Flint Glass 

Makers' Friendly Society of Great Britain and Ireland) 

dates from the same year Delegate meetings of other 

trades were held ; and national societies of tailors and 

shoemakers were set on foot. A national conference of 

curriers in 1845 established a federal union of all the local 

clubs in the trade. But the most important of the new 

bodies was the Miners' Association of Great Britain and 

Ireland, formed at Wakefield in 1841. 2 Up to this period 

the miners, held in virtual serfage by the truck system and 

i the custom of yearly hirings, had not got beyond ephemeral 

strike organisations. Strong county Unions now grew up in 

1 This was an elaborate national organisation with 60 branches, 
grouped under five District Boards. But it enrolled only 4320 members, 
and broke up in 1847, after numerous local strikes. In June 1849 most 
of the provincial branches joined in the Typographical Association, from 
which for some time the strong Manchester and Birmingham societies 
stood aloof; whilst the London men formed the London Society of 

8 The Colliers' Guide, showing the Necessity of the Cottiers Uniting to 
Protect their Labour from the Iron Hand of Oppression, etc., by J. B. 
Thompson (Bishop Wearmouth, 1843) ; and see many reports in the 
Northern Star, from 1843 to 1848 ; The Miners of Northumberland and 
Durham, by Richard Fynes, 1873 ; A Great Labour Leader [Thomas Burt], 
by Aaron Watson, 1908, pp. 19-23. 

182 The New Spirit and the. New Model 

Northumberland and Durham on the one hand, and Lanca- 
shire and Yorkshire on the other ; and the new body was 
a federation of these. Under the leadership of Martin 
Jude, it developed an extraordinary propagandist activity, 
at one time paying no fewer than fifty-three missionary 
organisers, who visited every coalpit in the kingdom. The 
delegate meetings at Manchester and Glasgow in the year 
1844 soon came to represent practically the whole of the 
mining districts of Great Britain ; and the membership 
rose, it is said, to at least loo^oo. 1 

A leading feature of this Trade Unionist revival was a 
dogged resistance to legal oppression. Although the more 
sensational prosecutions of Trade Union leaders had ceased 
with the abandonment of unlawful oaths, there was still 
going on, up and down the kingdom, an almost continuous 
persecution of the rank and file, by the magistrates' inter- 
pretation of the law relating to masters and servants. The 
miners, in particular, were hampered by lengthy hirii 
during which they were compelled to serve if required, 
but were not guaranteed employment. Unskilled in leg? 
subtleties, and not yet served by an experienced class 
Trade Union secretaries, they were made the victims 
a thousand and one quibbles and technicalities. 
Northumberland and Durham Miners' Union grappled wi1 
the difficulty in a thoroughly practical spirit. They engage 
W. P. Roberts, 2 an able and energetic solicitor, with stroi 

1 Northern Star for 1843-4 ; Fynes' Miners of Northumberland at 
Durham, 1873, chap. viii. ; Condition of the Working Class in England it 
1844, by Friedrich Engels, 1892, pp. 253-9. 

* William Prowting Roberts, the youngest son of the Rev. The 
Roberts, of Chelmsford, was born in 1806, and became a solicitor 
Manchester. He was an enthusiastic Chartist, and friend of Ferj 
O'Connor, to whose Land Bank he acted as legal adviser. From 184^ 
onwards his name appears in nearly all the legal business of the Ti 
Unions. The collapse of 1848 somewhat damaged his reputation, but 
continued to be frequently retained for many years. In 1867 he organ 
the defence of Allen, Larking, and O'Brien, the Irish " Manche 
Martyrs," who were hanged for the rescue of Fenian prisoners and the 
murder of a policeman. In later years Roberts retired to a country 
house in the neighbourhood of " O 'Connor ville," near Rickmans worth, th 
scene of one of O'Connor's colonies, where he died on September 7, 1871 

The " Miners' Attorney -General " 183 

labour sympathies, to fight every case in the local courts. 
In 1844 the Miners' Association of Great Britain and Ireland 
followed this excellent example by appointing Roberts 
their standing legal adviser at a salary of 1000 a year. 
When the Durham miners had to relinquish his ser- 
vices at the end of 1844, he was taken over by the newly 
formed Lancashire Miners' Union. The " miners' attorney- 
general," as he was called, showed an indefatigable activity 
in the defence of his clients, and was soon retained in 
all Trade Union cases. The magistrates throughout the 
country found themselves for the first time confronted by a 
pertinacious legal expert, who, far more ingenious than the 
employers, was not less unscrupulous in taking advantage 
of every technicality of the law. 

In a letter written to the Flint Glass Makers' Friendly 
Society in 1851, Roberts himself gives a vivid picture of 
the difficulties against which the Unions had to contend. 
i After explaining the law, as he understood it, he proceeds 
as follows : " But it is exceedingly difficult to induce those 
of the class opposed to you to take this view of things. I 
do not say this sarcastically, but as a fact learnt by long 
and observant experience. There are indeed men on the 
bench who are honest enough, and desirous of doing their 
duty. But all their tendencies and circumstances are 
against you. They listen to your opponents, not only 
often, but cheerfully so they know more fully the case 
against you than in your favour. To you they listen too 
but in a sort of temper of ' Prisoner at the Bar, you are 
entitled to make any statement you think fit, and the 
Court is bound to hear you ; but mind, whatever you say/ 
etc. In the one case you observe the hearty smile of good- 
will ; in the other the derisive sneer, though sometimes 
with a ghastly sort of kindliness in it. Then there is the 
knowledge of your overwhelming power when acting unitedly, 

A pamphlet on the Trade Union Bill of 1871 is the only publication of 
his that we have discovered, but he appears also to have edited a report 
of the engineers' trial in 1847, and reports of some other legal proceedings. 

184 The New Spirit and the New Model 

and this begets naturally a corresponding desire to resist 
you at all hazards. And there are hundreds of other con- 
siderations all acting the same way meetings, political 
councils, intermarriages, hopes from wills, etc. I do not 
say that all occupants of the bench are thus influenced, nor 
to the same extent ; but it certainly is at the best an uphill 
game to contend in favour of a working man in a question 
which admits of any doubt against him. It never happened 
to me to meet a magistrate who considered that an agreement 
among masters not to employ any particular * troublesome 
fellow ' was an unlawful act ; reverse the case, however^ 
and it immediately becomes a formidable conspiracy, 
which must be put down by the strong arm of the law, etc. 
. . . When I was acting for the Colliers' Union in the North 
we resisted every individual act of oppression, even in cases 
where we were sure of losing ; and the result was that in 
short time there was no oppression to resist. For it is t< 
be observed that oppression like that we are speaking of- 
which after all is merely a more genteel and cowardly mo< 
of thieving shrinks at once from a determined and decic 
opposition. In the North we should have tried this a 
first in the County Court, then at the Assizes, and t] 
perhaps in the Queen's Bench." l 

1 Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, October 1851. The years 1847- 
had witnessed many strikingly vindictive prosecutions of Trade Unionis 
Besides the case of the engineers, to which we shall refer hereaft 
twenty-one stonemasons of London were indicted in 1848 for conspiracj 
but, after repeated postponements, the prosecuting employer failed 
proceed with the case. The Sheffield razor-grinders stood in greal 
jeopardy. John Drury, and three other members of their society, 
tried and sentenced to ten years' transportation at the instance of 
Sheffield Manufacturers' Protection Association on the random 
tions of two dissolute convicts that they had incited them to d( 
machinery. This monstrous perversion of justice aroused the great* 
indignation. Public meetings were held by the National Association 
United Trades. The indictment was quashed on a technical point, bi 
a new one was immediately preferred against the defendants. The 1( 
feeling was, however, so great that they were finally, after a year's suspei 
released on their own recognisances (July 12, 1849). A Sheffield Trade 
Unionist declared that " the tyranny of the employers had been so great," 1 
in perverting the local administration of the law, "that the men laid 

A Dangerous Bill 185 

One result of Roberts' successful advocacy is perhaps 
to be seen in the introduction, during the Parliamentary 
session of 1844, of a Bill " for enlarging the powers of 
justices in determining complaints between masters, ser- 
Ivants, and artificers," which the Government got referred 
|to a committee, by which various extraordinary interpola- 
tions were made in what was at first a harmless measure. 1 
|Not only was any J.P. to be authorised to issue a warrant 
|for the summary arrest of any workman complained of 
jby his employer, but " any misbehaviour concerning such 
(service or employment " was to be punished by two months' 
'imprisonment, at the discretion of a single justice. It is 
easy to see what a wide interpretation would have been 
Igiven by many a justice of the peace to this vague phrase ; 
and Roberts was not slow to point out the danger to his 
clients. Upon his incitement the delegate meeting of coal- 
Iminers at Sheffield set on foot a vigorous agitation against 
the Bill, which had already slipped through second reading 
ind committee without a division. The Potters' Union 
took the matter up with special vigour, and circulated draft 
petitions throughout the Midlands. 2 A friendly member, 
'ihomas Slingsby Buncombe, obstructed its further progress, 
nd got it postponed until after the Easter recess. Mean- 
while petitions poured in upon the astonished House, 
imounting, it was said, to a total of two hundred, and 
epresenting two millions of workmen. When the Bill 
ame on again all the Radicals and the " Young England " 
Tories were marshalled against it. Sir James Graham in 
rain protested that the Government meant nothing more 
han a consolidation of the existing law, and led into the 
obby all his colleagues who were present, including Mr. 

ieir grievances before the Government. Sir George Grey ordered an 
aquiry. . . . Twenty cases of parties who had been convicted by the 
magistrates were brought before a Board of Inquiry, seventeen of which 
ere quashed " (Stonemasons' Fortnightly Circular, November 23, 1848). 

1 Bill No. 58 of 1844, introduced by William Miles, M.P. (Hansard, 
ols. 73 and 74.) 

* Potters' Examiner, April 13, 1844. 

1 86 The New Spirit and the New Model 

Gladstone. But the combination on the other side of 
Duncombe, Wakley, Hume, and Ferrand, with Tories 
like Lord John Manners, and a few enlightened Whigs 
such as C. P. Villiers, settled the fate of this attempt on the 
part of the employers to sharpen the blunted weapon of 
the law against the hated Trade Unions. 1 

The miners were less successful in their strikes than ini 
their legal and political business. In 1844 their National 
Conference at Glasgow, representing 70,000 men, voted, 
by 28,042 to 23,357, in favour of striking against their 
grievances, and the Durham men, numbering some 30,000, 
engaged in that prolonged struggle with Lord Londonderry! 
and their other employers for more equitable terms of hiring 
and payment, to which we have already alluded. 2 After 
many months' embittered strife the strike failed disastrously; 
and the great Miners' Association, whose proceedings forml 
so important a feature of the Northern Star for 1844 and! 
1845, gradually disappears from its pages, and in the general 
collapse of the coal trade in 1847-8 it came completely 
an end. 

But the culminating point in this revival of Ti 
Union activity was the formation, at Easter, 1845, of 
National Association of United Trades for the Protecti< 
of Labour, an organisation which resuscitated and coi 
bined some of the ideas both of Owen and of Doherty. 
Association was explicitly based, as its rules inform 
" upon two great facts : first, that the industrious clas 
do not receive a fair day's wage for a fair day's laboi 
and, secondly, that for some years past their endeavoi 
to obtain this have, with few exceptions, been unsuccessfi 
The mairf causes of this state of things are to be found 
the isolation of the different sections of working men, 

1 Hansard, vols. 73 and 74. The Bill was lost by 54 to 97 (May 
1844) ; see Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, by Friedr 
Engels, 1892, pp. 283-4. 

2 The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, by Richard 
1873, chap. ix. ; The British Coal Trade, by H. Stanley Jevons, 
pp. 448-51. 

A National Federation 187 

the absence of a generally recognised and admitted authority 
from the trades themselves." But, unlike the Owenite 
movement of 1833-4, * ne National Association of United 
Trades was from the first distinguished by the moderation 
of its aims and the prudence of its administration qualities 
to which we may attribute its comparatively lengthy sur- 
vival for fifteen years. No attempt was made to supersede 
existing organisations of particular trades by a " General 
Trades Union." " The peculiar local internal and technical 
circumstances of each trade," say the rules, " render it 
necessary that for all purposes of efficient internal govern- 
ment its affairs should be administered by persons possessing a 
practical knowledge of them. For this reason it is not intended 
to interfere with the organisation of existing Trade Unions." 
^Moreover, the promoters evidently intended the Association 
to become more of a Parliamentary Committee than a federa- 
tion for trade purposes. Its purpose and duty was declared 
to be " to protect the interests and promote the well-being 
)f the associated trades " by mediation, arbitration, and legal 
JDroceedings, and by promoting " all measures, political 
.md social and educational, which are intended to improve 
!:he condition of the labouring classes." 1 

This new attempt to form a National Federation origin- 
ited in a suggestion from the " United Trades " of Sheffield, 
embodied in an able letter written to Buncombe 2 by their 
secretary, John Drury. Buncombe had become widely 

1 Rules and Regulations of the Association of United Trades for the 
detection of Industry (London, August 2, 1845). There is, as far as we 
now, only one copy of these rules in existence, but full particulars of 
s establishment and working are to be found in the Northern Star, which 
used for a time as its official organ. 

1 Thomas Slingsby Duncombe was the aristocratic demagogue of the 
eriod. An accomplished man of the world, with the habits of a dandy, 
e nevertheless devoted himself with remarkable assiduity not only to 
ie Parliamentary business of the Chartists and Trade Unionists, but also 

the dry details of the committee work of the association of which he 
ecame president. The Life and Correspondence of Duncombe, which his 
m published in 1868, describes him almost exclusively as a fashionable 
an of the world and House of Commons politician, and entirely ignores 
is more solid work for Trade Unionism during the years 1845-8. 

i88 The New Spirit and the New Model 

known to the Trade Unionists, not only through his friend- 
ship with Fergus O'Connor, and his outspoken support of 
Chartism in the House of Commons, but also by his suc- 
cessful obstruction and defeat of the Masters and Servants 
Bill of the previous Session. He appears to have laid 
Drury's proposals before the leading men in the London 
Unions, who agreed to form a committee to report on the 
scheme, and to summon a conference of Trade Union 
delegates from all parts of the country. At Easter, 1845, 
no delegates, representing not only the London trades, but 
also the Lancashire miners and textile operatives, the 
hosiery and woollen-workers of Yorkshire and the Midlands, 
and the " United Trades " of Manchester, Sheffield, Norwich, 
Hull, Bristol, Rochdale, and Yarmouth, met together in 

The preliminary report made to the Conference by 
London Committee of Trade Delegates is practically 
first manifestation of that spirit of cautious if somewl 
limited statesmanship which characterised the Trade Uni< 
leaders of the next thirty years. 1 The Committee, whil 
recommending the immediate formation of a natic 
organisation, " to vindicate the rights of labour," and " 
oppose the tyranny of any legislative enactments to 

1 In this document we may perhaps trace the hand of T. J. Dui 
one of the ablest Trade Unionists of his time. Born in 1799, he 
Secretary of the Consolidated Society of Bookbinders in 1843. In i! 
he joined the National Association of United Trades, but left that 
after a few years. The Bookbinders' Circular, which he started in i8f 
was, during the rest of his life, largely written by himself, and conl 
many well-reasoned articles on Trade Union matters. In 1858 Dunnii 
joined the celebrated Committee of Inquiry into Trade Societies whi< 
was appointed by the Social Science Association. He contributed 
history of his own society to the Report, and frequently took part in 
subsequent annual congresses. His chief literary production is the 
entitled, Trades Unions and Strikes ; their philosophy and intention (if 
50 pp.), which he wrote for the prize instituted by his own Union for 
best defence of the workmen's organisation. This essay, which no pul 
lisher would accept, and which was printed by his society, remains, 
haps apart from George Howell's historical researches in Conflicts 
Capital and Labour, and Labour Legislation, Labour Movements and Lc ' 
Leaders the best presentation of the Trade Union case which any mam 
worker has produced. He died in harness on the 23rd of December 187; 

A Conciliatory Policy 189 

trade societies, or of a similar character to the Masters and 
Servants Bill of last session, were deeply impressed with the 
importance of, and beneficial tendency arising from, a good 
understanding between the employer and the employed ; 
seeing that their interests are mutual, and that neither can 
injure the other without the wrong perpetrated recoiling 
upon the party who inflicts it. They would therefore 
suggest it to be one of the principal objects of this Con- 
ference to cultivate a good understanding with the employer, 
and thereby remove those prejudices which exist against 
trade combinations, by showing upon all occasions that . 
they only seek by combination to place themselves upon 
equal terms as disposers of their labour with those who 
purchase it ; to secure themselves from injury, but by no 
means to inflict it upon others. Although the Committee 
jare anxious that this desirable and important organisation 
: should be carried out to the fullest possible extent, they 
feel that great caution must be observed in the formation 
of its laws and regulations, in order that the evils which 
i existed and eventually destroyed the Consolidated Union 
| of 1833 shall be carefully avoided. The Committee con- 
ceive it necessary to call 'the attention of those trades who 
iare comparatively disunited, and whose men are conse- 
iquently working for different rates of wages, to the great 
necessity that exists, that those who are receiving the highest 
wages should use every effort within their power to secure 
to their fellow-workmen a fair remuneration for their labour ; 
and that every inducement should be held out by the several 
trade societies to their separated brethren to join them, in 
order that they may be the better enabled to make common 
cause in cases of aggression, which would be the certain 
result if each trade were to form itself into one well-regu- 
lated society for their mutual interests. . . . And, finally, 
the Committee would earnestly recommend to this Con- 
ference, in order that these important points may be con- 
sidered and dispassionately argued, that no proposition of 
a political nature, beyond what has been already alluded 

190 The New Spirit and the New Model 

to, should be introduced, or occupy its attention ; con- 
vinced as they are that the only way to carry out these 
desirable objects satisfactorily, and with a due considera- 
tion to the best interests of all those who are concerned, 
is to consider and dispose of but one question at a time : 
and, moreover, to keep trade matters and politics as separate 
and distinct as circumstances will justify/' x 

The proceedings of this Conference show that the change 
of front on the part of the Trade Union leaders was reflected 
in the attitude of the rank and file. The surviving influence 
of Owenism is to be traced in the frequent recurrence of 
the idea of co-operative production, the desire to establish 
agricultural communities, and the proposal for a legislative 
shortening of the hours of labour. But of the aggressive 
policy and ambitious aims of 1830-34 scarcely a vestige 
remains. Strikes were deprecated, and the idea of a genei 
cessation of work was entirely abandoned. The proj< 
of co-operative production were on an altogether diffen 
plane from Owen's grand schemes. The Trade Unionist 
of the National Conference of 1845 had apparently no visic 
of a general transfer of the instruments of production froi 
the capitalists to the Trade Unions ; co-operative productic 
was regarded simply as an auxiliary to Trade Union actioi 
the union workshop furnishing a cheap alternative 
unproductive strike pay. Besides thus formally abandoi 
the methods and pretensions of 1834, tne Conferenc 
declared its allegiance to a new method of Trade Uni< 
activity the policy of conciliation and arbitration, 
the demand for " local Boards of Trade/' a phrase borrow 
apparently from the silk-weavers, we see the beginning 
that system of authoritative mutual negotiation betweei 
the representatives of capital and labour which became 
very distinctive feature of' British Trade Unionism in the 
last half of the nineteenth century. 

1 Report of London Committee of Trades Delegates to the National 
Conference of Trades Delegates, Easter, 1845 ; preserved in the archives 
of the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons. 

Trade Union Caution 191 

But the shadow of the failure of 1834 still hung over 
projects of universal Trade Unions. Although nearly all 
irades had been represented at the first conference, most 
of the larger organisations decided, on consideration, to 
hold aloof from the new body. We find, for instance, the 
Manchester Lodge of the Stonemasons' Society promptly 
protesting against the adherence of the society's delegate, 
md expressing their emphatic opinion " that past experience 
pas taught us that we have had general union enough." 
iDiis view was endorsed by the Central Committee, which, 
fin submitting the matter to the votes of the members, 
I Observes that " there are several trade societies in England 
ilis perfectly organised as ourselves, although their machinery 
j nay be somewhat various ; but we can hear of none of these 
ocieties being desirous to join this national movement. . . . 
|j't may be very well for trades who are divided into sections 
nd have no national organisation amongst themselves to 
in such an association they have nothing to lose ; but 
<. is a question for serious reflection whether a general union 
if each trade separately would not be far more effective than 
|he heterogeneous association in question." x A similar 
ew seems to have been taken by the Coal-miners, whose 
.tiohal federation was still in existence. A delegate 
eeting of the newly formed National Typographical 
ssociation decided by a large majority to remain outside. 
Lancashire Cotton-spinners sent a delegate to the 
Ijourned conference, and even proposed to have perambu- 
ting lecturers to explain the advantages of the new 
ganisation, but never actually decided to join. 2 

The adjourned conference, on July 28, 1845, was there- 
re composed, in the main, of the delegates of the smaller 
less organised trades. About fifty delegates took part 
the proceedings, which extended over six days. It was 

* Stonemasons' Fortnightly Circular, May 14, 1846. 

2 Minutes of delegate meetings of the " Operative Cotton-spinners. 
!lf-acting Minders, Twiners, and Rovers," held every other Sunday. 
lie July 20, August 3, and December 14, 1845. 

192 The New Spirit and the New Model 

eventually decided to separate the Trade Union from the 
co-operative aims, and to form two distinct but mutually 
helpful associations. The " National Association of United 
Trades for the Protection of Labour " undertook to deal 
with disputes between masters and men, and look after the 
interests of labour in the House of Commons. The ' ' National j 
United Trades Association for the Employment of Labour " 
proposed to raise capital with which to employ men who 
were on strike under circumstances approved by its twin 
brother. At the second conference, held at Manchester in 
June 1846, when 126 delegates, representing, it was said,| 
40,000 members, were present, the contribution to the Trade j 
Association was fixed at twopence in the pound of weekly 1 
earnings; and it was decided that the strike allowance 
should vary from nine shillings up to fourteen shillings pei 
week, the latter sum being the wages agreed on for mer 
employed in the association's own workshops. Up tc 
this date no strike had been supported, as it was desirec 
to avoid the premature action which had, it was held 
destroyed the Grand National Consolidated Union. /, 
number of paid organisers were engaged. The Association! 
which hitherto had consisted of woollen and hosiery-worker! 
and of the Midland hardware trades, spread in various 
directions. The executive of the Friendly Society of O 
tive Carpenters and Joiners the association that had pla; 
so important a part in the movement of 1830 issue 
manifesto to its members in favour of joining, and the gene 
secretary became an active member of the Executive 
the National Association. The Manchester Section of 
National Cordwainers' Society urged all its members 
all societies of boot and shoemakers to join. The Potters 
Staffordshire, the Miners of Scotland, the new-born Natio 
Association of Tailors, as well as the Metropolitan bran 
of the Boilermakers' and Masons' Societies came in. 
Association, in fact, became reputed a power in the land, 
drew down upon itself the abusive censure of the Ti 

1 Times, November 16. 1846. 

The "Document" again! 193 

But in spite of the wise intentions of its founders, it soon 
egan to suffer from the characteristic complaints of 
;eneral unions. The depression of trade which began in 
1845 brought about during the next two years reduc- 
ions of wages, followed by strikes and turn-outs in 
ilmost every branch of industry. The local committees 
the National Association, frequently composed of 
:he officials of the trades concerned, promised their 
nembers the support of the national funds, and took 
imbrage when the Executive sitting in London reversed 
heir decisions. Each constituent trade felt that its interests 
Ivere misunderstood, or its grievances neglected. A pro- 
longed strike of the Manchester building trades in 1846, 
>egun without sanction, failed miserably, the local com- 
nittee of the National Association declaring that the 
ollapse was due to lack of the financial support which had 
een promised on behalf of the central body. The coal 
Ind iron miners at Holytown in Lanarkshire engaged in a 
jtruggle against their employers which excited the sympathy 
If the Trade Union world, but which ended in failure. An 
Equally severe conflict by the calico-printers at Crayford 
i Kent met with no better success. The Scottish miners 
lomplained that they had been inadequately supported by 
he association ; and the Lancashire miners made this the 
Hretext for continued abstention. 

Though Buncombe's association had discouraged strikes, 
d acted principally as a mediating body, the employers 
roughout the country showed themselves uniformly 
ostile. The " document " which had figured so prominently 
1833-4 reappeared in a slightly altered form. The 
nployers signified their toleration if not their approval 
local trade clubs, but condemned with equal acrimony 
itional unions of particular trades, or general unions of 
1 trades. Affecting a sudden concern for the independence 
character of their workmen, they insisted that the exist- 
ice of any kin(} of central committee, however representa- 
it might be, prevented the men from being free agents, 


194 The New Spirit and the New Model 

and exposed them to the arbitrary commands of an irre- 
sponsible body. In face of this attitude, the efforts of the 
National Association to bring about peaceful settlements 
met with only qualified success. The London Executive, 
unable to cope with the applications for assistance that 
poured in daily from all parts of the country, issued strong 
admonitions against unauthorised strikes, but had eventually 
to give or withhold support without sufficient knowledge) 
of the local circumstances. Duncombe was principal!} 
occupied in drawing up and presenting petitions in favoui 
of the legislative shortening of the hours of labour, and ill 
this direction he rendered valuable assistance to the Lanca-| 
shire cotton-spinners' " Short Time Committee," whicl| 
secured the Ten Hours Act of 1847. The Central Executive 
was, indeed, during these years, more a Parliamentary 
Committee for the whole movement than a federation o . 
Trade Unions. The plan of co-operative workshops, fronj 
which so much had been expected, proved entirely futil| 
in the prolonged contests of the staple trades. On' 
flourishing boot workshop was started ; and the 1847 con| 
ference found, in all, one hundred and twenty-three men 
work, the enterprises being confined to those trades 
on by hand labour in a small way. In 1848 it was deci< 
to merge the two associations in one, and to set al 
raising 50,000 in order to start on a larger scale, 
before this could be attempted the association suffen 
double reverse from which it never recovered. Duncoi 
was compelled, by failing health, to withdraw during 
from active participation in its work. And at the end 
the following year a strike of the Wolverhampton tinpl 
workers involved the National Association in a sti 
with employers and with the law which drained its fi 
and destroyed its credit. 1 

1 The tinplate-workers of Wolverhampton had been endeavour 
ever since they joined the Association in 1845, to obtain a uniform 
of piecework rates. By the influence of the National Association, 
a list was agreed to during 1849 by all the employers except two. 
of these treated the men with exceptional duplicity. Having, as 

Decline of the Federation 195 

The later history of the association is obscure. 1 It 
ingered on for many years in a small way, its paid officers 
erving as advisers and representatives to a number of 
ninor Trade Unions. Its principal work in later years 
vas the promotion and support of bills for the establish- 
nent of councils of conciliation, and its persistent efforts 
ertainly paved the way for the Joint Boards subsequently 
et on foot. But it ceases after 1851 to exercise any 
pfluence or play any important part in the Trade Union 

The National Association of United Trades stands, in 
institution and objects, half-way between the revolu- 
ionary voluntaryism of 1830-4 and the Parliamentary 
iction of 1863-75. It may, in fact, be regarded either 
s a belated " General Trades Union " of an improved 
lype, or as a premature and imperfect Parliamentary 
Jommittee of the Trade Union world. And although 
pe great national Unions of the time took no part in its 

nought, adequately prepared himself, he threw off the mask in July 

[350, and flatly refused to continue the negotiations. The fierce in- 

|astrial and legal conflict which ensued attracted general attention. 

any of the strikers were imprisoned for breach of contract ; and the 

niggle culminated in the prosecution of three members of the com- 

ttee of the National Association, together with several of the local 

ionists, for conspiracy to molest and intimidate the employer by 

iucing men to leave his employment. Owing to legal quibbles, raised 

st on behalf of the Crown, and then on behalf of the defendants, the 

se was tried no fewer than three times, the final judgment not being 

ivered until November 1851, when five of the prisoners were sentenced 

three months', and one to one month's imprisonment. See R. v. Row- 

nds, 5 Cox C. C. p. 436 ; also Appendix A to The L,aw relating to Trade 

\ions, by Sir William Erie, 1869. 

1 Buncombe formally resigned the presidency in 1852. In 1856 its 
retary, Thomas Winters, gave evidence in favour of conciliation before 
e Select Committee on Masters and Operatives (Equitable Councils, 
.). He stated that the membership then numbered between 5,000 and 
>oo, and that the central committee consisted of three salaried members, 
.o gave up their whole time to the work. A subsequent secretary 
. Humphries) appeared before a similar committee four years later, his 
idence showing that the association, though it was still in existence, 
d taken no part in any of the important labour struggles of the past 
en or eight years. Mr. George Howell incidentally puts the date of 
dissolution at 1860 or 1861 (see his article " Trades Union Congresses 
d Social Legislation " in Contemporary Review for September 1889). 

196 The New Spirit and the New Model 

proceedings, its moderate and unaggressive policy wasj 
only one manifestation of the new spirit which now pre-1 
vailed in Trade Union councils. We see rising up in the.) 
Unions of the better-paid artisans a keen desire to get at 1 
the facts of their industrial and social condition. This 
new feeling for exact knowledge may to some extent bej 
attributed to the increasing share which the printing trades; 
were now beginning to take in the Trade Union Movement.: 
The student of the reports of the larger compositors' societies, 
from the very beginning of the century, will be struck, not; 
only by the moderation, but also by the elaborate Parlia-! 
mentary formality one might almost say the stateliness 
of their proceedings. Instead of rhetorical abuse of all 
employers as " the unproductive classes," and total abstin- 
ence from investigation of the details of disputes, we fine 
the compositors dealing only with concrete instances 
hardship, and referring every important question to 
" Select Committee " for inquiry and report. In 
the London Consolidated Society of Bookbinders, establi: 
in 1786, used part of its funds to form a library for 
benefit of its members. By 1851 a reading-room furnisl 
with daily and weekly newspapers had been opened Foi 
years later a similar library was established by the Londc 
Society of Compositors. In 1842, the Journeymen Stes 
Engine and Machine Makers' Friendly Society started 
Mutual Improvement Class at Manchester. Even 
Stonemasons, at that time a rough and somewhat turbi 
body, were reached by the new desire for self-improve 
The Glasgow branch of the Scottish United Operatic 
Masons report with pride, in 1845, that they have " forme 
a class for mutual instruction ... an association for moral 
physical, and intellectual improvement " which was settii 
itself to investigate the question " Is the present improve 
condition of machinery beneficial to the working 
or is it hurtful ? " * But the most effective outcome 
this desire for information was the starting by the Unioi 

1 English Stonemasons' Fortnightly Circular, December 25, 1845. 

Trade Union Journals 197 

>f special trade journals. The United Branches of the 

Operative Potters set on foot in 1843 the Potters' Examiner, 

li weekly newspaper which dealt with the trade interests 

Lnd technical processes of their industry. 1 The Journeymen 

pteam-Engine and Machine Makers' Friendly Society issued 

ihe Mechanics' Magazine between 1841 and 1847. In 

Kovember 1850 Dunning persuaded the London Consoli- 

ilated Society of Bookbinders to publish the Bookbinders' 

rrade Circular, in the pages of which he promulgated a 

heory of Trade Unionism, from which McCulloch himself 

i/ould scarcely have dissented, 2 and made that humble 

jrgan of his society into a monthly magazine of useful 

liformation on all matters connected with books and their 

aanufacture. But the best of these trade publications, 

jnd the only one which has enjoyed a continuous existence 

town to the present day, was the Flint Glass Makers' 

Magazine, an octavo monthly of ninety-six pages, established 

t Birmingham in 1850 by the Flint Glass Makers' Friendly 

ociety, 3 which advocated " the education of every man in 

ur trade, beginning at the oldest and coming down to the 

oungest. ... If you do not wish to stand as you are and 

after more oppression," it enjoined its readers, " we say 

you get knowledge, and in getting knowledge you get 

1 The Potters' Examiner, started December 1843, was converted, in 
ly 1848, into the Potters' Examiner and Emigrants' Advocate, published 
Liverpool and concerned chiefly with emigration. It ceased to appear 
on after 1851. 

8 See especially the articles on " Wages of Labour and Trade Societies " 

the second, third, and fourth numbers (December 1850 to February 
51), in which he assumes that the general level of wages is irresistibly 
termined by Supply and Demand, but that Trade Unionism, in pro- 
ding out-of-work pay, enables the individual workman to resist ex- 
ptional tyranny or exaction. 

* This journal contains a mass of useful information relating to the 
ade, special reports of the Trades Union Congresses, and well-written 
tides on industrial and economic problems. It is marked throughout 
T moderation of tone and fairness of argument. Unfortunately, so far 

we know, it is not preserved in any public library, and we were in- 
sbted to Mr. Haddleton, Secretary to the Birmingham Trades Council, 
ho, in 1893, possessed a complete set, for our acquaintance with its 

198 The New Spirit and the New Model 

power. . . . Let us earnestly advise you to educate ; get 
intelligence instead of alcohol it is sweeter and more 
lasting." 1 

With increased acquaintance with industrial conditions 
came a reaction against the policy of reckless aggression 
which marked the Owenite inflation. Here again we 
find the printing trades taking the lead. Already in 1835, 
when the London Compositors were reorganising their 
society, the committee went out of their way to denounce 
the great general Unions. " Unfortunately almost all 
Trades Unions hitherto formed," they report to their mem- 
bers, " have relied for success upon extorted oaths and 
physical force. . . . The fault and the destruction of all 
Trades Unions has hitherto been that they have copied 
the vices which they professed to condemn. While dis- 
united and powerless they have stigmatised their employe 
as grasping taskmasters ; but as soon as they (the workmei 
were united and powerful, then they became tyrants 
their turn, and unreasonably endeavoured to exact me 
than the nature of their employment demanded, or tl 
their employers could afford to give. Hence their faili 
was inevitable. . . . Let the Compositors of London she 
the Artisans of England a brighter and better exampl 
and casting away the aid to be derived from cunning 
brute strength, let us, v/hen we contend with our opponenl 
employ only the irresistible weapons of truth and reason." 
The disasters of 1837-42 caused this spirrFTo sprea3 
other trades. From this time forth the minutes and circ 
of the larger Unions abound in impressive warnings 
aggressive action. " Strikes are prolific," say the delegai 
of the Ironmoulders in council assembled ; " in certi 
cases they beget others. . . . How often have disput 
been averted by a few timely words with employers ! 

1 Opening Address to the Glass Makers of England, Ireland, 
Scotland, No. i. 

2 Report of London Compositors' Committee on Amalgamation, 183,* 
Annual Report, February 2. 1835. 

Opposition to Strikes 199 

is surely no dishonour to explain to your employer the 
nature and extent of your grievance." 1 The Stonemasons' 
Central Committee repeatedly caution their members 
.' against the dangerous practice of striking. . . . Keep 
from it," they urge, " as you would from a ferocious animal 
that you know would destroy you. . . . Remember what 
t was that made us so insignificant in 1842. ... We 
Implore you, brethren, as you value your own existence, to 
|ivoid, in every way possible, those useless strikes. Let us 
iiave another year of earnest and attentive organisation ; 
ind, if that does not perfect us, we must have another ; 
[or it is a knowledge of the disorganised state of working 
jnen generally that stimulates the tyrant and the taskmaster 
|:o oppress them." 2 A few years later the Liverpool lodge 
nvites the support of all the members for the proposition 
' that our society no longer recognise strikes, either as a 
neans to be adopted for improving our condition, or as a 
cheme to be resorted to in resisting infringements," 8 and 
uggests, as an alternative, the formation of an Emigration 
? und. The Portsmouth lodge caps this proposal by insisting 
tot only that strikes should cease, but also that the word 
strike " be abolished ! The Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, 
itween 1850 and 1855, is full of similar denunciations. 
We believe," writes the editor, " that strikes have been 
ic bane of Trades Unions." 4 In 1854 the Flint Glass 
[akers, on the proposition of the Central Committee, 
bolished the allowance of " strike-money " by a vote of 
whole of the members. As an alternative it was often 
uggested that a bad employer should be defeated by 
uietly withdrawing the men one by one, as situations 
ould be found for them elsewhere. " As man after 
lan leaves, and no one [comes] to supply their place, 
len it is that the proud and haughty spirit of the 

1 Address of Delegate Meeting to the Members of the Friendly Society oj 
ronmoulders of England, Ireland, and Wales, September 26, 1846. 
8 Fortnightly Circular, December 25, 1845. 
8 Ibid., June 1849. 
4 January 1855. 

200 The New Spirit and the New Model 

oppressor is brought down, and he feels the power he 
cannot see." * 

It was part of the same policy of restricting the use of 
the weapon of the strike that the power of declaring war 
on the employers was, during these years, taken away 
" fr from the local branches. In the two great societies of 
which we have complete records the Ironmoulders and 
the Stonemasons we see a gradual tightening up of the 
control of the central executive. The Delegate Meeting 
of the Ironmoulders in 1846 vested the entire authority 
in the Executive Committee. " The system/' they report, 
" of allowing disputes to be sanctioned by meetings of our 
members, generally labouring under some excitement or 
other, or misled by a plausible letter from the scene of the 
dispute, is decidedly bad. Our members do not feel that 
responsibility on these occasions which they ought. The] 
are liable to be misled. A clever speech, party feeling, 
misrepresentation, or a specious letter all or any of th( 
may involve a shop, or a whole branch, in a dispute, unjust 
and possibly without the least chance of obtaining th( 
object. . . . Impressed with the truth of these opinions, 
have handed over for the future the power of sanctioi 
disputes to the Executive Committee alone." 2 The Storu 
masons' Central Committee, after 1843, peremptorily forl 
lodges to strike shops, even if they do not mean to ch; 
the society's funds with strike-pay. And though in 
Union, unlike the Ironmoulders, the decision to strike 
not to strike was not vested in the Executive, any loc 
had to submit its demand, through the Fortnightly Circi 
to the vote of the whole body of members throughout tl 
kingdom a procedure which involved delay and gave 
Central Committee an opportunity of using its influei 
in favour of peace. 

1 Letter on " The Evil Consequences of Strikes," in Flint Glass Mat, 
Magazine, July 1850. The suggested alternative the Strike in Detail- 
is discussed in our Industrial Democracy. 

2 Address of the Delegate Meeting to the Members of the Friendly Socie 
of Ironmoulders, 1846. 

"Supply and Demand" 201 

The fact that most of the Executive Committees were, 
from 1845 onward, setting their face against strikes, jdid 
not imply the abandonment of an energetic trade policy. 
HeT ""leaders of the better educated trades had accepted 
he economic axiom that wages must inevitably depend 
ipon the relation of Supply and Demand in each particu- 
ar class of labour. It seemed an obvious inference that the 
nly means in their power to maintain or improve their 
ondition was to diminish the supply. " All men of experi- 
iice agree," affirms the Delegate Meeting of the Ironmoulders 
n 1847, " that wages are to be best raised by the demand 
or labour.'* Hence we find the denunciations of strikes 
Accompanied by an insistence on the limitation of apprentices, 
he abolition of overtime, and the provision of an Emigra- 
|ion Fund. The Flint Glass Makers declare that " the 
scarcity of labour was one of the fundamental principles 
aid down at our first conference held in Manchester in 1849." 

It is simply a question of supply and demand, and we all 
now that if we supply a greater quantity of an article 
pan what is actually demanded that the cheapening of 
liat article, whether it be labour or any other commodity, 
! a natural result." l In this application of the doctrine 
- f Supply and Demand the Flint Glass Makers were joined 
ly the Compositors, Bookbinders, Ironmoulders, Potters, 

ad, as we shall presently see, the Engineers. 2 For the 
mxt ten years an Emigration Fund becomes a constant 
|ature of many of the large societies, to be abandoned only 

hen it was discovered that the few thousands of pounds 

hich could be afforded for this purpose produced no visible 

1 " Emigration as a Means to an End," Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, 
gust 1854 ; address of Executive, September 1857. 

" Thus if in a depression you have fifty men out of work they will 
eive ^1,015 in a year, and at the same time be used as a whip by the 
<iployers to bring your wages down; by sending them to Australia at 
I 3 per head you save 15, and send them to plenty instead of starvation 
J home ; you keep your own wages good by the simple act of clearing 
I i surplus labour out of the market " (Farewell Address of the Secre- 
y, Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, August, 1854). " Remove the surplus 
Dur and oppression itself will soon be a thing of the past " (Ibid.). 

H 2 

2O2 The New Spirit and the New Model 

effect in diminishing the surplus labour. Moreover, it was 

. __ - "" ' * fca " i - *_ 

the vigorous and energetic member who applied for his 
passage-money, whilst the chronically unemployed, if he 
could be persuaded to go at all, frequently reappeared at 
the clubhouse after a brief trip at the society's expense. 1 

The harmless but ineffective expedient of emigration 
was accompanied by the more equivocal plan of closing 
the trade to new-comers. The Flint Glass Makers, like 
the other sections of the glass trade, have always been 
notorious for their strictrTimitation of the number of appren- 
tices. The constant refrain of their trade organ is "Look! 
to the rule and keep boys back ; for this is the foundation 
of the evil, the secret of our progress, the dial on which our 
society works, and the hope of future generations/' a The 
printing trades were equally active. Select Committees 
of the London Society of Compositors were constantly! 
inquiring into the most effective way of checking boy 
labour and regulating " turnover " apprentices. And 
engineering trades, at this time entering the Trade Unic 
world, were basing their whole policy on the assumpti< 
that the duly apprenticed mechanic, like the doctor or 
solicitor, had a right to exclude " illegal men " from 

Such was the " New__Spmt " which, by 

1 Emigration Funds begin to appear in Trade Union Reports at 
1843 (see the Potters' Examiner). For thirty years the accounts of 
larger societies include, off and on, considerable appropriations for 
emigration of members. The tabular statement of expenditure publis 
in the Ironmoulders' Annual Report shows, for instance, that ^4,712 
spent in this way between 1855 and 1874. In the Amalgamated Ca 
an Emigration Benefit lingered until 1886, when it was finally abolis 
by the General Council ; the members resident in the United States 
Colonies strongly objecting to this use of the funds. But it was bet 
1850 and 1860 that emigration found most favour as an integral part 
Trade Union policy. The Trade Unions of the United States and 
Australian Colonies addressed vigorous protests to the officials of 
English societies (see, for example, the Stonemasons' Fortnightly Ci 
June 1856), a fact which co-operated with the dying away of the "\ 
rush," and the change of Trade Union opinion, to cause the a 
ment of the policy, until it was revived in 1872 for a decade or so, 
the Agricultural Labourers' Unions. 

* Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, September 1857. 

The " Liquor Allowance " 203 

don^naUng the Trade Umpnjyorld. Meanwhile the steady 
growth of national Unions, each with three to five thousand 
members, ever-increasing friendly benefits, and a weekly 
contribution per member which sometimes exceeded a 
shilling, involved a considerable development of Trade 
Union structure. The little clubs and local societies had 
been managed, in the main, by men working at their trades, 
and attending to their secretarial duties in the evening. 
With the growth of such national organisations as the 
Stonemasons, the Ironmoulders, and the Steam-Engine 
jMakers, the mere volume of business necessitated the 
appointment of one of the members to devote his whole 
(time to the correspondence and accounts. But the new 
(official, however industrious and well-meaning, found upon 
ps hands a task for which neither his education nor his 
temperament had fitted him. The archives of these societies 
reveal the pathetic struggles of inexperienced workmen to 
i:ope with the difficulties presented by the combination of 
Branch management and centralised finance. The dis- 
pursement of friendly benefits by branch meetings, the 
Custody and remittance of the funds, the charges for local 
Expenses (including " committee liquor "),* the mysteries 

1 During these years the Executive Committees of the larger societies 
|rere waging war on the " liquor allowance." In the reports and financial 
atements of the Unions for the first half of the century, drink was one 
the largest items of expenditure, express provision being made by the 
les for the refreshment of the officers and members at all meetings, 
he rules of the London Society of Woolstaplers (1813) state that " the 
esident shall be accommodated with his own choice of liquors, wine 
nly excepted." The Friendly Society of Ironmoulders (1809) ordains 
at the Marshal shall distribute the beer round the meeting impartially, 
embers being forbidden to drink out of turn " except the officers at 
e table or a member on his first coming to the town." Even as late 
1837 the rules of the Steam-Engine Makers' Society direct one-third 
the weekly contribution to be spent in the refreshment of the members, 
provision which drops out in the revision of 1846. In that year the 
elegate Meeting of the Ironmoulders prohibited drinking and smoking 
its own sittings, and followed up this self-denying ordinance by alter- 
g the rules of the society so as to change the allowance of beer at 
anch meetings to its equivalent in money. " We believe," they remark 
their address to the members, " the business of the society would be 
uch better done were there no liquor allowance. Interruption, con- 

204 The New Spirit and the New Model 

of bookkeeping, and the intricacies of audit all demanded a 
new body of officers specially selected for and exclusively 
engaged in this work. During these years we watch a 
shifting of leadership in the Trade Union world from the 
casual enthusiast and irresponsible agitator to a class of 
permanent salaried officers expressly chosen from out of 
the rank and file of Trade Unionists for their superior business 
capacity. But besides the daily work of administration, the 
expansion of local societies into organisations of national 
extent, and the transformation of loose federations into 
consolidated unions, involved the difficult process of con- 
stitution-making. The records of the Ironmoulders and the 
Stonemasons show with what anxious solicitude successive 
Delegate Meetings were groping after a set of rules that 
would work smoothly and efficiently. One Union, however, 
the Journeymen Steam-Engine and Machine Makers 
Millwrights' Friendly Society, tackled the problems 
internal organisation with peculiar ability, and eventi 
produced, in the Amalgamated Society of Engine 
" New Model " of the utmost importance to Trade Uni< 

To understand the rise of this remarkable society, 
must revert to the earlier history of combinations wl 
have hitherto scarcely claimed attention in our account 
the general movement. The origin of Trade Unionism 
the engineering trades is obscure. We learn that at 
close of the last century the then dominant class of 

fusion, and scenes of violence and disorder are often the characteristic 
meetings where order, calmness, and impartiality should prevail." 
1860 most of the larger societies had abolished all allowance for liquor 
and some had even prohibited its consumption during business meetings 
It is to be remembered that the Unions had, at first, no other meetin 
place than the club-room freely placed at their disposal by the publicar 
and that their payment for drink was of the nature of rent. Meanwhil 
the Compositors and Bookbinders were removing their headquarters froi 
public-houses to offices of their own, and the Steam-Engine Makers wei 
allowing branches to hire rooms for meetings so as to avoid temptatioi 
In 1850 the Ironmoulders report that some publicans were refusing t 
lend rooms for meetings, owing to the growth of Temperance. 

The Rise of the Engineers 205 

wrights possessed strong, exclusive, and even tyrannical 
trade societies, the chief of them being the " London 
Fellowship," meeting at the Bell Inn, Old Bailey. 1 The 
millwrights, who were originally constructors of mill-work 
of every kind, both wood and iron, were, on the introduction 
of the steam-engine, gradually superseded by specialised 
workers in particular sections of their trade. The introduc- 
tion of what was termed " the engineer's economy," that is 
to say, the parcelling out of the trade of the millwright 
among distinct classes of workmen, and the substitution 
of " payment according to merit " for the millwrights' 
Standard Rate, completely disorganised the skilled 
mechanics of the engineering trade. This condition was 
not materially improved by the establishment, from 1822 
onward, of numerous competing Trade Friendly Societies. 
jThe Ironmoulders alone concentrated their efforts upon 
jmaintaining one national society. The millwrights, smiths, 
ipattern-makers, and other skilled mechanics engaged in 
jengine and machine making had societies in London, 
(Manchester, Newcastle, Bradford, Derby, and other engineer- ^ 
ling centres. Of these the Steam-Engine Makers (established 
11824) '> the Journeymen Steam-Engine and Machine Makers 
|and Millwrights (established 1826) ; the Associated Frater- 
jnity of Iron Forgers, usually called the " Old Smiths " 
[established 1830) ; and the Boilermakers (established 1832) 
ire known to have been organisations of national extent, 
with branches in all parts of the country, competing, not 
nly with each other, but with the Metropolitan and other 
ocal societies of Millwrights, Smiths, Pattern-makers, 

1 It was the strength of their organisation in London in 1799, as we 
ave seen, that led to the employers' petition to the House of Commons, 
ut of which sprang the Combination Acts of 1799 and 1800. See also 
:he evidence given by Galloway and other employers before the 1824 
elect Committee on Artisans and Machinery ; also incidental references 

the Life of Sir William Fairbairn, 1877, and other works. We have 
een unable to discover any documents of engineering societies prior to 
822. Sir William Fairbairn, in the preface to his Mills and Mill-work, 
86 1, attributes the supersession of the millwright to the changes con- 
equent on the introduction of the steam-engine. 

206 The New Spirit and the New Model 

and ^General Engineers. This anarchic rivalry prevented 
any effectual trade action, and tempted employers to 
give the work to the lowest bidder, and to introduce 
the worst features of competitive piecework and sub- 

We are, therefore, not surprised to find that the 
engineers' societies took little part in the great upheaval 
of 1830-4. But the wave of solidarity which then swept 
over the labour world seems to have had considerable, 
though tardy, effect even in this trade. The chief districts 
affected were London and Lancashire. In 1836 a London 
joint committee of several of the sectional societies success- 
fully conducted an eight months' strike for a shortening of 
the hours of labour to sixty per week, and for extra payment 
for overtime. Again, in 1844 a joint committee obtained 
from the London employers a further reduction of hoi 
Encouraged by these successes, the members of tl 
Metropolitan societies and branches began to discuss tl 
possibility of a national amalgamation. The most prominei 
personality in this movement was that of William Newton, 3 

1 William Newton was born at Congleton in 1822, his father, wl 
had once occupied a superior position, being then a journeyman macl 
The boy went to work in engine shops at the age of fourteen, joined 
Hanley Branch of the Journeymen Steam-Engine Makers' Society in 1845 
V soon afterwards moving to London (where he worked in the same she 
as Henry James, afterwards Lord James of Hereford, then an engine 
pupil, and later noted for his knowledge of Trade Unionism), and rose to 
foreman. After his dismissal in 1848 for his Trade Union activity he to< 
a public-house at Ratcliffe, and devoted himself largely to the promotit 
of the amalgamation of the engineering societies. In 1852 he becai 

/for a short period, secretary to a small insurance company. At 
General Election of 1852 he became a candidate for the Tower Hamlet 
He was opposed by both the great political parties, but the show of ham 
at the hustings was in his favour. At the poll he was unsuccessfi 
receiving, however, 1,095 votes. In 1860 he was presented with a 
monial (including a sum of 300) from his A.S.E. fellow-members, 
later years he became the proprietor of a prosperous local newspaper 
was elected by the Stepney Vestry as its chairman and also as its rej 
sentative on the Metropolitan Board of Works. He became one of 
leading members of that body, on which he served from 1862 to 1876, 
filing the important office of deputy chairman to the Parliamentary, "' 
Brigade, and other influential committees. In 1868 he again conte; 
the Tower Hamlets against both Liberals and Conservatives, receiving 

William Newton 207 

a leading member of the Journeymen Steam-Engine and 
Machine Makers and Millwrights' Friendly Society, the 
association which afterwards became, as we shall see, the 
parent of the amalgamation. 

William Newton had exactly the qualities needed for 
| his task. Gifted with remarkable eloquence, astute and 
[conciliatory in his methods, he was equally successful in 
[inspiring masses of men with a large idea, and in persuading 
ithe representatives and officials of rival societies to agree 
I with the details of his scheme. His influence was augmented 
'by his tried devotion to the cause of Trade Unionism. In 
11848 he was dismissed from a first-rate position as foreman 
in a large establishment owing to his activity in trade matters, 
jand in the following years his business as a publican was 
seriously damaged by his constant absence on society 
| business. But though from the first he had been an active 
Imember of his Union, and was for many years a Branch 
Secretary, he was, so far as we know, at no time its full- 
itime salaried official. He stands, therefore, midway between 
Ithe casual and amateur leaders of the old Trade Unionism 
| and the new class of permanent officials, sticking closely to 
office work, and acquiring a detailed experience in Trade 
'Union organisation. 

Whilst Newton was bringing the* London societies into 
line, the Lancashire engineers were moving in the same 
direction. Already in 1839 a " committee of the engineering 
trades " at Bolt on urged upon their comrades the establish- 
ment of " one concentrated union " ; and in the following 
year, through the energy of Alexander Hutchinson, the 
secretary of the Friendly United Smiths of Great Britain 
and Ireland, a United Trades Association was set on foot 
in Lancashire, to comprise the " Five Trades of Mechanism, 
viz. Mechanics, Smiths, Moulders, Engineers, and Mill- 
wrights." The objects of this association were ably repre- 

2,890 votes ; and in 1875 he unsuccessfully fought a bye-election at 
Ipswich. He died March g, 1876, when his funeral, in which the Metro- 
politan Board of Works took part, assumed a public character. 

208 The New Spirit and the New Model 

sented and promoted by its organ, the Trades Journal, 
established to extend and " improve Trades Unions- generally 
in Great Britain and Ireland." 1 The attempt proved, 
however, premature, and it was not until the year 1844 
that the Bolt on men, under the leadership of John 
Rowlinson, succeeded in establishing a permanent " Pro- 
tection Society," composed of delegates from the Societies 
of Smiths, Millwrights, Ironmoulders, Engineers, and 
Boilermakers. Inspirited by the success of the Bolton 
society, which successfully maintained a nine months' strike 
(costing it 9,000) against the " Quittance Paper " (char- 
acter note, or leaving certificate) which the employers 
eventually agreed to abandon, joint committees of 
engineering operatives were formed between 1844 and 
1850 in all the principal Lancashire centres. These were 
repeatedly addressed by Rowlinson and Hutchinson, am 
the ground was prepared for a systematic attempt at 
national amalgamation. 

The leading part in the amalgamation was taken by tl 
society to which Newton belonged. The Journeymc 
Steam - Engine and Machine Makers and Millwrights' 
Friendly Society, with its headquarters at Manchester, at 
this time far exceeded any other trade society in member- 
ship and wealth. Established in 1826 as the Friendb 
Union of Mechanics, it had absorbed in 1837 a stro1 
Yorkshire society dating from 1822 (the Mechanics' Friendl] 
Union Institution), and by 1848 it numbered seven thousanc 
members organised in branches all over the kingdom, an< 
possessed an accumulated reserve fund of 25,000. 
silent growth of this Union, the slow perfecting of it 
constitution by repeated delegate meetings held at intervz 
during the preceding twenty years, stand in marked conti 
with the dramatic advent of the ephemeral organisations 
1830-34. But this task of internal organisation, with it 

1 This journal is preserved in the Manchester Public Library (341, 
P. 37). It was a well-written 16 pp. 8vo, issued, at first fortnightly 
afterwards monthly, at 2d. No. i is dated July 4, 1840. 

Rise of the Engineers 209 

gradual working out of the elaborate financial and 
administrative system which afterwards became celebrated 
in the constitution of the Amalgamated Engineers, seems 
to have absorbed, during the first fifteen years of its 
existence, all the energy of its members. In none of the 
working-class movements of this period did the society 
play any part, nor do we find that it, as a whole, engaged 
in any important conflicts with its members' employers. 
At last, in 1843, a delegate meeting urged the members to 
oppose systematic overtime, and in 1844 the society, as 
we have seen, took part in the London movement for the 
shortening of the hours of labour. By 1845 it seems to 
have felt itself strong enough to undertake aggressive trade 
action by itself, and a delegate meeting in that year 
attacked the employment of labourers on machines, " the 
piece master system," and systematic overtime, by 
stringent resolutions upon which the Executive Committee 
sitting at Manchester were directed to take early action. 1 
During the following year accordingly a simultaneous 
attempt appears to have been made by many of the 
branches to enforce these rules. This action led, at Belfast, 
Rochdale, and Newton-le- Willows, to legal proceedings by 
the employers, and the officers of the society, together with 
over a score of its members, found themselves in the dock 
indicted for conspiracy and illegal combination. 2 The trial 

1 Minutes of delegate meeting at Manchester, May 12, 1845. An 
admirable account of this society, founded on documents no longer 
extant, is given in an article by Professor Brentano in the North British 
Review, October 1870, entitled " The Growth of a Trades Union." For 
some other particulars see the Jubilee Souvenir History of the Amalgamated 
Society of Engineers, 1901. 

2 Executive Circular, 1846, cited in proceedings in R. v. Selsby. Two 
!ull accounts of the trial were published, viz. a Verbatim Report of the 
\Trial for Conspiracy in R. v. Selsby and others (Liverpool, 1847, 66 pp.), 

>ublished under the " authority of the Executive of the Steam-Engine 
lakers' Society," arid a Narrative, etc., of the Trial, R. v. Selsby (London, 
847, 68 pp.). Both are preserved in the Manchester Public Library, 
3 . 2198. The legal report is in Cox's Crown Cases, vol. v. p. 496, etc. 
Contemporary Trade Union reports contain many references to the pro- 
ceedings. It was noticed as an instance of the animus of the prosecu- 
ion that the indictment contained 4914 counts, and measured fifty- 



2io The New Spirit and the New Model 

of the twenty-six engineers of Newton-le- Willows, and the 
conviction of nine of them, including Selsby, the General 
Secretary of the great mechanics' Union, caused a sensation 
^in the Trade Union world, and tended to draw closer together 
the rival societies in the engineering trade. 

The progressive trade policy of the Journeymen Steam- 
Engine and Machine Makers' Society greatly increased the 
ascendency which its superiority in wealth and numbers 
gave it over the numerous other trade friendly societies in 
the engineering trades. William Allan, a young Scotchman, 
succeeded Selsby in the salaried post of general secretary 
when the latter obtained a commercial post in 1848. A 
close friend and ardent disciple of William Newton, he 
quickly manifested, in the administration of his own society, 
the capacity and energy which enabled him in future years 
to play so important a part in the general history of the 
Labour Movement. The cause of amalgamation was well 
served by the indefatigable missionary efforts of these two 
men. The anniversary dinners and friendly social meetings 
of the joint committees of the societies in the Lancashire 
iron trades were, as we know from contemporary records, 
made the occasion of propagandist speeches, and were 
doubtless used also by these astute organisers to talk over 
the leading men to agreement with their proposals. The 
natural jealousy felt by the great provincial centre of Trade 
Unionism of the interference of the Metropolis in its concerns 
was allayed by Allan's suggestion that the Lancashire 
societies should call a conference of delegates at Warrington 
in March 1850, for the purpose of consultation and dis- 
cussion only. At this meeting, which was attended only 
by the representatives of three of the larger societies 
(including the Steam-Engine Makers established at Liverpool 
in 1824, an d the Smiths' Benevolent, Friendly, Sick and 

seven yards in length. W. P. Roberts organised the defence, which cost 
the Union 1800. The firm in whose works the dispute arose became 
bankrupt within a few years. See the Jubilee Souvenir History of the 
Amalgamated Society of Engineers, 1901. 

William Newton 21 1 

Burial Society, established in 1830), Newton and Allan 
succeeded in getting through the outlines of their scheme 
of amalgamation. During the next six months these 
proposals were the subject of exhaustive discussion at every 
joint committee and branch meeting. Meanwhile the 
leaders had established in Manchester a weekly journal for 
the express purpose of promoting amalgamation, engaging 
as editor, under a written contract, Dr. John Watts, 
afterwards well known as one of the ablest advocates of 
Ico-operation. This journal, the Trades Advocate and Herald 
'o/ Progress, stated to be " established by the Iron Trades," 
jdiscussed the advantages of union, and incidentally taught 
the doctrines of Free Trade and Co-operative Production. 1 

Lancashire converted and conciliated, London could 

now go ahead. Under Newton's influence the London 

(joint committee summoned a second delegate meeting at 

(Birmingham in September 1850, which was attended by 

Representatives of seven engineering societies. At this 

conference the scheme of amalgamation was definitely 

idopted ; and the Metropolitan " Central Committee " 

vas charged, as a " Provisional Committee," to complete 

the details of the transfer of the old organisation to the 

pew body. The tact and skill with which Allan and 

\ T ewton carried out their project are conspicuously shown 

)y the way in which the act of union was regarded by all 

oncerned. There is no trace of suspicion on the part of 

he minor societies that they were taking part in anything 

>ut an amalgamation on equal terms. The whole Trade 

Jnion world, including the Amalgamated Society of 

Engineers itself, has retained the tradition that this great 

rganisation was the outcome of a genuine amalgamation 

f societies of fairly equivalent standing. What happened, 

1 The Trades Advocate and Herald of Progress was an 8 pp. quarto 
eekly, price id.. No. I being dated June 1850. The volume from 
une to December 1850 is preserved in the Manchester Public Library 
jo i E, 1 8). An able article by John Burnett in the Newcastle Weekly 
hronicle, July 3, 1875, gives a vivid picture of the struggle for amalga- 

212 The New Spirit and the New Model 

as a matter of fact, was that the society led by Allan and 
Newton absorbed its rivals. 1 The new body took over, in 
its entirety, the elaborate constitution, the scheme of 
benefits (with the addition of Sick Benefit and the adoption 
of the innovation of an Emigration Benefit of 6), the trade 
policy, and even the official staff of the Journeymen Steam- 
Engine and Machine Makers and Millwrights' Society, which 
contributed more than three-fourths of the membership 
with which the amalgamation started, and found itself 
continued, down to the minutest details, in the rules and 
regulations of the new association. An important addition 
was, however, the adoption of a definite trade policy of 
restricting overtime and preventing piecework ; the institu- 
tion of District Committees charged to carry out that 
policy ; and the establishment of a new Strike Pay of 153. 
per week. 

The conclusions of the Birmingham delegates were not 
accepted without demur. Many of the branches 
Lancashire and elsewhere objected to the position obtaim 
by the London Committee, and stood aloof from 
amalgamation. The Manchester Committee showed 
of jealousy at the transfer of the seat of government to 
Metropolis. But the most important defection was that 
the rank and file of the members of the Steam-En^ 
Makers' Society, an association which stood in membershij 
and funds second only to the Journeymen Steam-En^ 
Makers and Machine Makers' Society. Newton and Al 
had succeeded in persuading the whole of the Execute 
to throw in their lot with the amalgamation, but the b\ 
of the members revolted, and the society maintained 
separate existence down to the end of 1919, when it joim 
the other societies in the creation of the Amalgamal 
Engineering Union. Even in Newton's own society, 
which the main principles of the amalgamation had 
carried by large majorities, a considerable number of 

1 This was pointed out in Professor Brentano's article in the Nc 
British Review, already quoted. 

The Amalgamation 213 

j provincial branches remained hostile. On January 6, 1851, 
I when the Provisional Committee formally assumed office 
as the Executive Committee of the " Amalgamated Society 
of Engineers, Machinists, Smiths, Millwrights and Pattern- 
I makers," scarcely 5000 members out of the 10,500 repre- 
jsented at the Birmingham Conference were paying to the 
I amalgamated funds. 1 For some months, indeed, the success 
of Newton's ambitious scheme looked doubtful. Though 
;| London had rallied to his help, only one small society 
standing aloof, the provincial branches came in very slowly. 
It took three months' persuasion to raise the membership 
of the amalgamation up to the level of the parent society. 
Delegate meetings of the Steam-Engine Makers and the 
Smiths' Societies decided against amalgamation, though 
many of their branches broke away and joined the new 
society. But towards the end of May the tide turned. The 
remaining branches of the Journeymen Steam-Engine and 
Machine Makers and Millwrights' Society held a delegate 
meeting, at which it was decided no longer to oppose the 
i amalgamation ; the Smiths' Society of London and several 
! other small societies came in ; and by October Newton and 
'Allan were at the head of a united society of 11,000 members 
paying is. per week each, the largest and most powerful 
Union that had ever existed in the engineering trades, and 
far exceeding in membership, and still more in annual 
income, any other trade society of the time. 2 

1 The organ of the Executive Council was the Operative, a well-written 
weekly journal, which was set on foot by Newton in January 1851. The 
price was at first lid., and afterwards id. per number. The issues from 
;he beginning down to July 1852, probably all that were published, are 
reserved in the British Museum (P. P. 1424, a.m.). Newton acted as 
editor, and contributed nearly all the articles relating to the engineers 
and Trade Unions generally. 

z The largest and most powerful of the other Unions in 1851 were 
;hose of the Ironfounders and the Stonemasons, which numbered between 
four and five thousand members each. It must be remembered that the 
previous ephemeral associations of the cotton-spinners and miners, which 
often for a time counted their tens of thousands of members, were ex- 
clusively strike organisations, with contributions of id. or 2d. per week 
only. The huge associations of 1830-34 had usually no regular subscrip- 

214 The New Spirit and the New Model 

The successful accomplishment of the amalgamation was 
followed by a conflict with the employers, which riveted the 
attention of the whole Trade Union world upon the new 
body. The aggressive trade policy initiated by Selsby and 
^Ifan in Lancashire and Newton in London had been 
repeatedly confirmed by the delegate meetings of their 
society, and was formally incorporated in the basis of the 
larger organisation. 1 The more energetic branches were not 
slow in acting upon it. In 1851 the men at Messrs. Hibbert 
& Platt's extensive works at Oldham made a series of 
demands, not only for the abolition of overtime, but also 
for the exclusion of " labourers and other ' illegal ' men " 
from the machines. With these demands Messrs. Hibbert 
& Platt and other employers had to comply. The private 
minutes of the London Executive prove conclusively that 
the strike to oust labourers from machines was not authorised 
by the central body ; * but as William Newton, now 
member of the Executive, acted as the representative 
the Oldham men in submitting these demands to M< 
Hibbert & Platt, the employers, naturally inferring tl 
his action was the direct outcome of the amalgamatioi 
formed in December 1851 the Central Association 
Employers of Operative Engineers to resist the men's 

Meanwhile the London Executive had been consultii 
the whole of the members on the proposal to aboli: 
systematic overtime and piecework, and had obtained 
almost unanimous vote in favour of immediate action. 

tion at all, and depended on irregularly paid levies. A trade 
which, like the Amalgamated Engineers, could count on a regular ii 
of ^500 a week was without precedent. 

1 See the resolutions of the Birmingham Delegate Meeting of the 
Trades, September 28, 1850, in the Trades Union Advocate, Noveml 

z It was resolved : " That we are prepared to assist the workmen 
Messrs. Platt to the utmost of our power, but cannot consent to the n 
leaving their situations, because they may not at present be able to obt 
the working of the machines." The best account of the struggle is to 
found in the Jubilee Souvenir History of the A.S.E. (1901), pp. 34-41. 

The Lock-Out 215 

manifesto was issued to the employers, in which the 
Executive announced the intention of the society to put 
an end to piecework and systematic overtime after 
I December 31, 1851. The employers replied by an imperious 
declaration in the Times that a strike at any one establish- 
ment would be met seven days later by a general lock-out 
of the whole engineering trade. The men thereupon offered 
| to submit the question to arbitration, a proposal which the 
employers ignored. On January i, 1852, the members of 
j the Amalgamated Society refused to work overtime, and on 
I the loth the masters closed, as they had threatened, every 
I important engineering establishment in Lancashire and the 
I Metropolis. 

The three months' struggle that followed interested the 
i general public more than any previous conflict. The details 
:were described, and the action of the employers and the 
i policy of the Union was discussed in every newspaper. The 
imen found unexpected friends in the little group of 
" Christian Socialists/' who threw themselves heartily into 
I the fray, and rendered excellent service, not only by liberal 
i subscriptions, 1 but also by letters to the newspapers, public 
I lectures, and other explanations of the men's position. The 
masters remained obdurate, insisting not only upon the 
unconditional withdrawal of the men's demands, but also 
upon their signing, the well-known " document " forswearing 
Trade Union membership. The capitalists, in fact, took up 
the old line of absolute supremacy in their establishments, 
and expressly denied the men's right to take any collective 
action whatsoever. 

Notwithstanding the subscription of 4000 by the 
public and 5000 by other trade societies, the funds at 
the disposal of the Union soon began to run short. The 
Executive had undertaken to support not only the 3500 
of its own members and the 1500 mechanics who were out, 

1 Lord Goderich, afterwards the Marquis of Ripon, gave the Executive 
a cheque for ^500 to enable the strike pay to be kept up on a temporary 
emergency ; one of many generous efforts, during a long lifetime, to 
assist the wage-earning class. 

216 The New Spirit and the New Model 

but also the 10,000 labourers who had been made idle. 
Altogether over 43,000 was dispensed during the six 
months in out-of-work pay. Early in February the masters 
opened their workshops. By the middle of March the issue 
of the struggle was plain, and during April the men resumed j 
work on the employers' terms. Almost all the masters I 
insisted on the actual signature of the " document " by | 
their men, and most of these, under pressure of imminent 
destitution, reluctantly submitted, without, however, carry- 
ing out their promise by abandoning the Union. Judge 
Hughes, writing in 1860, describes this act of bad faith by 
the men as " inexcusable," but there is much to be said for | 
the view taken by the Amalgamation Executive, who 
declared that they held themselves " and every man who 
unwillingly puts his hand to that detestable document j 
which is forced upon us to be as much destitute of that 
power of choice which should precede a contract as if a 
pistol were at his head and he had to choose between death j 
and degradation." x A promise extorted under " duress " 
carries with it little legal and still less moral obligation, and | 
whatever discredit attaches to the transaction must 
ascribed at least as much to the masters who made t] 
demand as to the unfortunate victims of the labour 
who unwillingly complied with it. 2 

It was the dramatic events of 1852- which made 

1 Executive Circular of April 26, 1852, in Operative, May i, 1852. 
number of the men refused to sign, and many emigrated. E. Vansitt 
Neale advanced ^1030 to members for this purpose, the whole of whi< 
was repaid by the borrowers. 

2 Among the abundant literature on this great struggle may be nu 
tioned the Account, by Thomas (afterwards Judge) Hughes, in the Re 
on Trade Societies, by the Social Science Association, 1860 ; J. M. Ludlow' 
lectures, entitled The Master Engineers and their Workmen, 1852 ; 
pamphlet, May I not do what I will with my own ? by E. Vansittart Neale ; 
Jubilee Souvenir History of the A.S.E., 1901 ; and the evidence given 
William Newton (for the men) and Sidney Smith (for the employ* 
before the Select Committee on Masters and Operatives (Equitable 
Councils, etc.) in 1856. The employers' manifestoes will be found in 
Times from December 1851 to April 1852 ; the men' sdocuments 
reports of their meetings in the Operative (edited by Newton), and in tl 
Northern Star, then at its last gasp. 

The "New Model " 217 

establishment of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers a 

urning-point in the history of the Trade Union Movement. 

The complete victory gained by the employers did not, as 

hey had hoped, destroy the Engineers' Union. The 

membership of the society was, in fact, never seriously 

haken. 1 On the other hand, the publicity which it gained 

n the conflict gave it a position of unrivalled prominence 

n the Trade Union world. From 1852 to 1889 the elaborate 

onstitution of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers 

erved as the model for all new national trade societies, 

vhilst old organisations found themselves gradually incor- 

orating its leading features. The place occupied in 1830-34 

y the cotton-spinners and the builders was, in fact, now 

aken by the iron trades. 

The " New Model " thus introduced differed, both for 

;ood and evil, from the typical Trade Unionism of the 

receding generation. The engineering societies had to 

jome extent inherited the exclusive policy of the organisa- 

iions of the skilled handicraftsmen of the beginning of the 

ientury. Unlike the General Trades Unions of 1830-34 they 

iSstricted their membership to legally apprenticed work- 

aen. Their records bear traces of the old idea of the legal 

jicorporation of separate trades, rather than of any general 

|nion of " the productive classes." The generous but 

inpracticable " universalism " of the Owenite and Chartist 

irganisations was replaced by the principle of the protection 

[ the vested interests of the craftsman in his occupation. 

the preface to the rules of the parent society expresses this 

pminant idea by a forcible analogy : 

1 It ended the struggle with 700 in hand. Its membership at the 
d of 1852 had fallen from 11,829 to 9737, but even then it had a balance 
hand of 5382, and within three years the members had increased to 
553, and the accumulated funds to the unprecedented total of ^35,695. 
d unlike all previous trade societies, its record from 1852 down to the 
esent time has been one of continued growth and prosperity, the member- 
p at the end of 1919 being 320,000, with accumulated funds not far 
ort of three million pounds, being greater in aggregate amount than the 
ssessions of any other Trade Union organisation of this or any other 

218 The New Spirit and the New Model 

" The youth who has the good fortune and inclination 
for preparing himself as a useful member of society by the 
study of physic, and who studies that profession with 
success so as to obtain his diploma from the Surgeons' Hall 
or College of Surgeons, naturally expects, in some measure, 
that he is entitled to privileges to which the pretending 
quack can lay no claim ; and if in the practice of that 
useful profession he finds himself injured by such a pretender, 
he has the power of instituting a course of law against him. 
Such are the benefits connected with the learned professions. 
But the mechanic, though he may expend nearly an equal 
fortune and sacrifice an equal proportion of his life in 
becoming acquainted with the different branches of useful 
mechanism, has no law to protect his privileges." * He is 
therefore urged to join the society, which aims at securing 
the same protection of his trade against interlopers as 
enjoyed by the learned professions. 

This spirit of exclusiveness has had, as we shall hereafte 
discern, an equivocal effect, not only on the history of tl 
society itself, but on that of the Trade Union Movemei 
But the contemporary trade movements either did n< 
observe or failed to realise the tendency of this attempt 
retain or reconstruct an aristocracy of skilled workme 
What impressed the working men was not the trade polic 
which had brought about the defeat of 1852, but 
admirably thought-out financial and administrative syst( 
which enabled the Union to combine the functions of 
trade protection society with those of a permanent insurai 
coimoany, and thus attain a financial stability hithe 
undreamt of. Time proved that this constitution had 
peculiar defects. But for over twenty years no Tn 
Unionist questioned its excellence, and the minute criticis 
and heated abuse which it evoked from employers and tl 
advocates seemed only another testimony to its effectives 
We think it worth while, therefore, at the risk of introdw 

1 Preface to Rules of the Journeymen Steam-Engine, Machine Me 
and Millwrights' Friendly Society, edition of 1845. 

Friendly Benefits 


:edious detail, to describe the main features of this " New 

Tn striking contrast with the Cotton-spinners' and 
Guilders' Unions of 1830-34, with their exclusively trade 
>urposes, the societies in the engineering trades had, like 
te trade organisations of the handicraftsmen of the last 
>ntury, originated as logal_benefit clubs. The Journeymen 
>team-Engine Makers' Society, for instance, had from the 
>t provided its members witri out-of-work pay, a travelling 
lowance, a funeral benefit, and a lump sum in case of 
iccidental disablement. In 1846 it added to these benefits a 
ill sick allowance, and shortly afterwards an old age 
tension to superannuated members. The administration of 
friendly benefits was from the outset the primary 
iibject of the organisation. As the local benefit club 
jxpanded into a national society by the migration of its 
imbers from town to town, the extreme difficulty of 
ibining local autonomy with a just and economical 
linistration of extensive benefits became apparent. For 
society, it must be remembered, was not a federation 
independent bodies, each having its own exchequer and 
itributing to the central fund its determinate quota of 
te expenses of the central office : it was from the first a 
;le association with a common purse, into which all 
itributions were paid, and out of which all expenditure, 
>wn to the stationery and ink used by a branch secretary, 
defrayed. This concentration of funds carried with it 
ic practical advantage of forming a considerable reserve 
the disposal of the Executive. But so long as it was 
ibined with local autonomy, it was open to the obvious 
jection that a branch might dispense benefits to its own 
ibers with undue liberality, and thus absorb an unfair 
>unt of the moneys of the whole society. And hence we 
id that in 1838 an attempt was made to centralise the 
[ministration, by transforming the local officials from the 
rvants of the branches into agents of the central authority, 
inherent love of self-government of the British artisan 

22O The New Spirit and the New Model 

defeated this proposal, which would inevitably have led to 
local apathy and suspicion, if not to grosser evils. Some 
other method of harmonising local autonomy with centralised 
finance had therefore to be invented. 

Under the constitution which the Amalgamated Society 
took over from the Journeymen Steam-Engine and Machine 
Makers and Millwrights, we find this problem solved with 
considerable astuteness. The branch elects and controls its 
own local officers, but acts in all cases within rules which 
provide explicitly for every detail. Each branch retains its 
own funds and administers the friendly benefits payable to 
its own members, including the allowance to men out of 
work. The financial autonomy of the branch is, however, 
more apparent than real. No penny must be expended 
except in accordance with precise rules. The branch retains 
its own funds, but these are the property of the whol 
society, and at the end of each year the balances 
" equalised " by a complicated system of remittances 
branch to branch, ordered by the Central Executive in si 
a way that each branch starts the year with the same amoi 
of capital per member. The cumbrous plan of anniu 
equalisation is a device adopted in order to maintain 
feeling of local self-government under a strictly centralis 
financial system. 1 From the decision of the branch 
member may appeal to the Central Executive Council 
The decisions of this Council on all questions of friend!} 
benefits are, however, strictly limited to the interpretatk 
of the existing laws of the society. These rules, whi< 

1 This plan of " equalisation " is, so far as we know, peculiar to Ti 
Unions, though we understand from Dr. Baernreither's English Assc 
tions of Working Men, pp. 283-84, that a few branches of some of 
Friendly Societies adopted a somewhat similar system. Its origin 
unknown to us, but the device is traditionally ascribed to the Jourr 
men Steam-Engine and Machine Makers and Millwrights' Society, es 
lished in 1826. It was also in early use by the Steam-Engine Mai 
Society, established in 1824. Until the Trade Union Act of 1871 it 
a positive use. Depending, as Trade Unions were obliged to do, uj 
the integrity of their officers, there were great advantages in the wide 
distribution of the funds and the local responsibility of each branch for 
the safe keeping of its share. 

Trade Policy 221 

include in equal detail both the constitutional and the 
financial code, cannot be altered or modified except by a 
specially convened meeting of delegates from every district. 
Careful provision is, moreover, made against the danger of 
hasty or ill-considered legislation even by this supreme 
authority. No amendment may be so much as considered 
without having been circulated to all the branches six weeks 
(prior to the delegate meeting, and having thereupon been 
liscussed and re-discussed by the members at two successive 
general meetings convened for the purpose. Thus every 
(delegate comes to his legislative duties charged with a 
iirect and even detailed mandate from his constituents. 
Moreover, it is expressly provided that no friendly benefit 
ill be abrogated unless the decision of the delegate 
teeting to that effect is ratified by a majority of two-thirds 
m a vote of the members of the whole society. As a 
[riendly society, therefore, the Association consists of a 
mmber of self-governing branches acting according to the 
>rovisions of a detailed code, and amenable, in respect of 
interpretation, to a Central Executive. 
As a Trade Union, on the contrary, the Association has 
;n from the first a highly centralised body. The great 
|bject of the amalgamation was to secure uniformity in 
rade policy, and to promote the equalisation of what the 
xmomists call " real wages " x throughout the whole 
mntry. With this view the Central Executive has always 
stained the absolute power of granting or withholding 
:rike pay. No individual can receive strike allowance from 
branch except upon an express order of the Executive, 
knowledge, however, is clearly needed for the decision 
matters of trade policy, and on the amalgamation 
district " committees were established, consisting of the 
:presentatives of neighbouring branches. These com- 
ittees have no concern with the administration of 
jiendly benefits, which, as we have seen, is the business of 

1 That is to say, local differences in the cost of living have always 
en taken into account. 

222 The New Spirit and the New Model 

each branch. Their function is to guard the local interests 
of the trade, to watch for encroachments, and to advise the 
Executive Council in the administration of strike pay. 
Unlike the branches, they possess no independent authority, 
and arejreguired to act strictly under the orders of head- 
quarters, to which the minutes of their proceedings are 
regularly sent for confirmation. 

Not less impressive than this elaborate constitution, with 
its system of checks and counter-checks, was the magnitude 
of the financial transactions of the new society. The high 
contribution of a shilling a week, paid with unexampled 
regularity by a constantly increasing body of members, 
provided an income which surpassed the wildest dreams 
of previous Trade Union organisations, and enabled the 
society to meet any local emergency without serious effort. 
A large portion of this income was absorbed by 
expensive friendly benefits, which were on a scale at 
time unfamiliar to the societies in other trades. And wh< 
it was found that the contribution of a shilling a week 
only met all these requirements, but also provided 
accumulating balance, which could be drawn upon f( 
strike pay, the indignation of the employers knew 
bounds. For many years the union of friendly benefil 
with trade protection funds, now considered as the guarante 
of a peaceful Trade Union policy, was denounced as 
dishonest attempt to subsidise strikes at the expense of tl 
innocent subscriber to a friendly society insurance agaii 
sickness, accident, and old age. 1 

In scarcely less marked contrast with the cui 
tradition of Trade Unionism was the publicity which 
Amalgamated Engineers from the first courted. Powei 
societies, such as the existing Union of Stonemasons, 

1 Such protests were frequent in the evidence before the Royal 
mission of 1867-68, and form the staple of the innumerable criticisms 
Trade Unionism between 1852 and 1879. A good vindication of the Tr 
Union position is contained in Professor Beesly's article in the Fortnig) 
Review, 1867, which was republished as a pamphlet, The Amalgamt 
Society of Carpenters and Joiners, 1 867, 20 pp. 

The Need for Publicity 223 

between 1834 and 1850 elaborated a constitution which 
proved as durable as that of the Amalgamated Engineers, 
though of a slightly different type. But the old feeling of 
secretiveness still dominated both the leaders and the rank 
and file. The Stonemasons' Fortnightly Circular, which, 
regularly appearing as it has done since 1834, constitutes 
perhaps the most valuable single record of the Trade Union 
Movement, was never seen outside the branch meeting- 
place. 1 At the Royal Commission of 1867-8 the employers' 
witnesses bitterly complained of their inability to get copies 
of this publication and of a similar periodical circular of 
the Bricklayers' Society. 2 As late as 1871 we find the liability 
to publicity adduced by some Unions as an argument 
against seeking recognition by the law. 

The leaders of the Engineers believed, on the contrary, 

in the power of advertisement. We have already noticed 

the two short-lived newspapers which Newton and Allan 

published in 1850 and 1851-2, for the express purpose of 

jmaking known the society and its objects. For many years 

lafter the amalgamation it was a regular practice to forward 

|to the press, for publication or review, all the monthly, 

(quarterly, and annual reports, as well as the more important 

>f the circulars issued to the members. Representatives 

were sent to the Conference on Capital and Labour held 

)y the Society of Arts in 1854, and to the congresses of 

he Social Science Association from 1859 onward. Newton 

nd Allan appear, indeed, to have eagerly seized every 

)pportunity of writing letters to the newspapers, reading 

>apers, and delivering lectures about the organisation which 

:hey had established. 

It is easy to understand the great influence which, during 

1 The unique collection of these circulars, containing not only statistical 
nd other information of the society, but also frequent references to the 
uilding trades and the general movement, was generously placed at our 
isposal for the purpose of this work, and we have found it of the utmost 

2 See, for instance, the evidence of Mault, Questions 3980 in Second 
Leport and 4086 in Third Report, 

224 The New Spirit and the New Model 

the next twenty years, this " New Model " exercised upon 
the Trade Union world. Its most important imitator was 
the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters, which, as we shall 
see, arose out of the great London strike of 1859-60. The 
tailors in 1866 drew together into an amalgamated society, 
which adopted, almost without alteration, the whole code 
of the engineers, and in 1869 the London Society of 
Compositors appointed a special committee to report upon 
" the constitution and working of the Amalgamated Trades," 
with a view to their imitation in the printing industry- 
an intention which, in spite of the favourable character ofj 
the report, was not carried out. 1 Scarcely a trade exists 
which did not, between 1852 and 1875, either attempt 
to imitate the whole constitution of the Amalgamated 
Engineers, or incorporate one or other of its characteristic 

The five or six years following the collapse of the 
lock-out of 1852, though constituting a period of q 
progress in particular societies, are, for the historian of 
general Trade Union Movement, almost a blank, 
severe commercial depression of 1846-49 was succeeded 
seven years of steadily expanding trade, which furnis 
no occasion for general reduction of wages. The reac 
against the ambitious projects of the Trade Union of I 
continued to discourage even federal action ; 2 whilst 
complete failure of the struggle of the engineers, folio 
as it was in 1853 by the disastrous strike of the Prest 
cotton-spinners for a ten per cent advance, by an eq 
unsuccessful struggle of the Kidderminster carpet-weav 
and by a fierce and futile conflict by the Dowlais 
workers, 3 increased the disinclination of the Unions 
aggressive trade action on a . large scale. The disrep 

1 Report of Special Committee, 1869. 

2 The National Association of United Trades continued, as we h 
already seen, in nominal existence until 1860 or 1861, but after 1852 j 
sank to a membership of a few thousands, and played practically no 

in the Trade Union world. 

8 Times, June to December 1853. 

The Self -Governing Workshop 225 

into which strikes had fallen was intensified by the spread 
among the more thoughtful working men of the principles 
of Industrial Co-operation. This new development of 
Owen's teaching took two forms, both, it 'need hardly be 
said, differing fundamentally from the Owenism of 1834. 
In Lancashire the success of the " Rochdale Pioneers," 
established in 1844, had led to the rapid extension of the 
Co-operative Store, the association of consumers for the 
supply of their own wants. To some extent the stalwart 
i leaders of the Lancashire and Yorkshire working men were 
diverted from the organisation of trade combinations to 
the establishment of co-operative shops and corn-mills. 
Meanwhile the " Christian Socialists " of London had 
caught up the idea of Buchez and the Parisian projects 
of 1848, and were advocating with an almost apostolic 
fervour the formation of associations of producers, in which 
groups of working men were to become their own employers. 1 
The generous enthusiasm with which the " Christian 
Socialists " had thrown themselves into the Engineers' 
struggle, and their obvious devotion to the interests of 
Labour, gave their schemes of " Self-governing Workshops " 
i great vogue. Numberless small undertakings were started 
y operative engineers, cabinetmakers, tailors, bootmakers, 
md hatters in the Metropolis and in other large industrial 
entres, and for a few years the Executives and Committees 
>f the various Unions vied with each other in recommending 
lo-operative production to their members. But it soon 
i'ecame apparent that this new form of co-operation was 
atended, not as an adjunct or a development of the Trade 
nion, but as an alternative form of industrial organisation. 
or, urlike the Owenites of 1834, the Christian Socialists 
ad no conception of the substitution of profit-making 

1 A more detailed account of these developments will be found jn The 
^-operative Movement in Great Britain (1891 ; second edition, 1893), 
i Beatrice Potter (Mrs. Sidney Webb); Co-operative Production, by 
enjamin Jones, 1894; an( l in the Report of the Fabian Research 
epartment on Co-operative Production, published as a supplement to 
New Statesman, February 14, 1914. 


226 The New Spirit and the New Model 

enterprise by the whole body of wage-earners, organise 
either in a self-contained community or in a complet 
Trades Union. They sought only to replace the individuc 
capitalist by self-governing bodies of profit-making workmei 
A certain number of the ardent spirits among the Londo 
and north country workmen became the managers an 
secretaries of these undertakings, and ceased to be energeti 
members of their respective Unions. " We have found, 
say the Engineers' Executive in their annual report of 185= 
" that when a few of our own members have commence 
business hitherto they have abandoned the society, an 
conducted the workshops even worse than other employers. 
Fortunately for the Trade Union Movement the unifon 
commercial failure of these experiments, so long, at anj 
rate, as they retained their original form of the self-governirj 
workshop, soon became obvious to those concerned, 
idea of " Co-operative Production " constantly reap] 
contemporary Trade Union records, but after the failui 
the co-operative establishments of 1848-52 it ceases, 
nearly twenty years, to be a question of " practical politi< 
in the Trade Union world. 

In spite of this intellectual diversion the work of Ti 
Union consolidation was being steadily carried on. 
Amalgamated Engineers doubled their numbers in the 
years that followed their strike, and by 1861 their Ui 
had accumulated the unprecedented balance of 73, 
The National Societies of Ironfounders and Stonerm 
grew in a similar proportion. A revival of Trade Unioi 
took place among the textile operatives. The prc 
association of Lancashire cotton-spinners began its 
in 1853, whilst the cotton- weavers secured in the same y< r 
what has been fitly termed their Magna Charta, 13 
" Blackburn List " of piecework rates. But with lie 
exception of the building trades, Trade Unionism assumli, 
during these years, a peaceful attitude. The leaders jo 
longer declaimed against " the idle classes," but sought jo 
justify the Trade Union position with arguments based ifl 

The Building Trades 227 

jniiddle-class economics. The contributions of the Amal- 
gamated Engineers are described " as a general voluntary 
rate in aid of the Poor's Rate." * The Executive Council 
:annot doubt that employers will not " regard a society 
ike ours with disfavour. They will begin to understand 
:hat it is not intended, nor adapted, to damage their 
interests, but rather to advance them, by elevating the 
Character of then: workmen, and proportionately lessening 
heir own responsibilities." The project of substituting 
' Councils of Conciliation " for "Strikes and lock-outs grew 
n favour with Trade Unior leaders. Hundreds of petitions 
n favour of their establishment were got up by the 
Rational Association of United Trades, then on its last 
igs. The House of Commons Committees in 1856 and 1860 
|:>und the operatives in all trades disposed to support the 
rinciple of voluntary submission to arbitration. For a 
rief period it seemed as if peace was henceforth to prevail 
ver the industrial world. 

The era_of strikes which set in with the contraction 
[ trade in 1857 proved how fallacious had been these 
Dpes. The building trades, in particular, had remained 
ss affected than the Engineers or the Cotton Operatives 
Y the change of tone. The local branches of the Stone- 
asons, Bricklayers, and other building trade operatives, 
ten against the wish of their Central Committees, were 
igaged between 1853 and 1859 m an almost constant suc- 
ssion of little strikes against separate firms, in which the \ 
Jen were generally successful in gaining advances of wages. 2 

1 Address of the Executive Council of the Amalgamated Society of En- 
'. i\eers to their Fellow-Workmen, 1855. 

2 See The Strikes, their Extent, Evils, and Remedy, being a Description 
Whe General Movement of the Mass of the Building Operatives throughout 
t\ United Kingdom, by Vindex (1853), 56 pp. One consequence of this 
r ewed outburst of strikes was the appointment in 1858 by the newly 
fjmed National Association for the Promotion of Social Science of a 
Qnmittee to inquire into trade societies and disputes. This inquiry, 
c ducted by able and zealous investigators, resulted in 1860 in the 
pblication of a volume which contains the best collection of Trade 
Uon material and the most impartial account of Trade Union action 
t't has ever been issued. As a source of history and economic illustra- 

228 The New Spirit and the New Model 

These years were, moreover, notable for the recognition in| 
the provincial building trades of " working rules," or signed! 
agreements between employers and workmen (usualtyj 
between the local Masters' Associations and the Trade 
Unions), specifying in minute detail the conditions of the! 
collective bargain. Without doubt the adoption of these 
rules was a step forward in the direction of industrial peace j 
but, like international treaties, they were frequently pre-i 
ceded by desperate conflicts in which both sides exhausted! 
their resources, and learnt to respect the strength of the 
other party. With the depression of trade more importanlj 
disputes occurred. During 1858 fierce conflicts arose 
between masters and men in the flint glass industry and 
in the West Yorkshire coalfield. The introduction of the! 
sewing-machine into the boot and shoemaking villages o: 
Northamptonshire led to a series of angry struggles. Bui 
of the great disputes of 1858 to 1861, the builders' strike 
in the Metropolis in 1850^-60 was by far the most importanlj 
in its effect upon the Trade Union Movement. 

The dispute of 1859 originated in the growing move-l 
ment for a shortening of the hours of labour. 1 The demand 
for a Nine Hours Day in the Building Trades was firsi 
made by the Liverpool Stonemasons in 1846, and renewed 
by the London Stonemasons in 1853. In neither casej 
however, was the claim persisted in. Four years late 
the movement was revived by the London Carpenters 
whose memorial to their employers was met, after a join 

tion this Report on Trade Societies and Strikes (1860, 651 pp.) is far superio; 
to the Parliamentary Blue Books of 1824, 1825, 1838, and 1867-68 
Among the contributors were Godfrey Lushington (afterwards Under- 
secretary of State for the Home Department), J. M. Ludlow (afterward; 
Registrar of Friendly Societies), Thomas (afterwards Judge) Hughes 
Q.C., Mr. G. Shaw-Lefevre (afterwards Lord Eversley), F. D. Longe, am 
Frank Hill. The Committee was presided over by the late Sir Jame; 
Kay-Shuttleworth, and amongst its other members may be mentionec 
W. E. Forster, Henry Fawcett, R. H. Hutton, Rev. F. D. Maurice, Dr 
William Farr, and one Trade Union secretary, T. J. Dunning, of th( 
London Bookbinders. 

1 See the account of it in Labour Legislation, Labour Movements, am 
Labour Leaders, by G. Howell, 1902. 

The Nine Hours Day 229 

conference, by a decisive refusal. Meanwhile the Stone- 
masons were seeking to obtain the Saturday half-holiday, 
which the employers equally refused. This led, in the 
autumn of 1858, to the formation of a Joint Committee of 
Carpenters, Masons, and Bricklayers, which, on November 
18, 1858, addressed a dignified memorial to the master 
builders, urging that the hours of labour should be shortened 
by one per day, and that future building contracts should 
be accepted on this basis. At first ignored by the employers, 
this request was eventually refused as decidedly as it had 
been in 1853 and 1857. The Joint Committee thereupon 
made a renewed attempt by petitioning four firms selected 
by ballot. Among these was that of Messrs. Trollope, 
who promptly dismissed one of the men who had presented 
the memorial. This action led to an immediate strike 
against Messrs. Trollope. Within a fortnight every master 
builder in London employing over fifty men had closed 
his establishment, and twenty-four thousand men were 
peremptorily deprived of their employment. The contro- 
versy which raged in the columns of contemporary news- 
papers during this pitched battle between Capital and 
Labour brought out in strong relief the state of mind of 
the Metropolitan employers. Uninfluenced by the progress 
of public opinion, or by the new tone of respect and modera- 
tion adopted by Trade Union leaders, the London employers 
took up the position of their predecessors of 1834. They 
absolutely refused to recognise the claim of the representa- 
tives of the men even to discuss with them the conditions 
of employment. This attitude was combined with a deter- 
mined attempt to destroy all combination, the instru- 
ment adopted being the well-worn Document. The Central 
Association of Master Builders resolved, in terms almost 
identical with its predecessor of 1834, that " no member 
of this Association shall engage or continue in his employ- 
ment any contributor to the funds of any ^Trades Union 
or Trades Society which practises interference with the 
regulation of any establishment, the hours or terms of 

230 The New Spirit and the New Model 

labour, the contracts or agreements of employers or employed, 
or the qualification or terms of service." 

This declaration of war on Trade Unionism gained for 
the men on strike the support of the whole Trade Union 
world. The Central Committee of the great society of 
Stonemasons, which had hitherto discouraged the Metro- 
politan Nine Hours Movement as premature, took up the 
struggle against the Document as one of vital importance. 
Meetings of delegates from the organised Metropolitan 
trades were held in order to rally the forces of Trade Unionism 
to the cause of the builders. The subscriptions which poured 
in from all parts of the kingdom demonstrated the possession, 
in the hands of trade societies, of heavy and hitherto un- 
suspected, reserves of financial strength. The London 
Pianoforte Makers contributed 300. The Flint Glass 
Makers, who had just emerged from a prolonged struggle 
on their own account, sent a similar- sum. " Trades Com- 
mittees " were formed in all the industrial centres, and 
remitted large amounts. Glasgow and Manchester sent 
over 800 each, and Liverpool over 500. The newly 
formed Yorkshire Miners' Association forwarded 230. 
The Boilermakers, Coopers, and Coachmakers' Societies 
were especially liberal in their gifts. But the sensation 
of the subscription list was the grant by the Amalgamated 
Engineers of three successive weekly donations of 1000 
each an event long recalled with emotion by the survivors 
of the struggle. Altogether some 23,000 were subscribed 
(exclusive of the payments by the societies directly con- 
cerned), an amount far in excess of any previous strike 

Such abundant support enabled the men to defeat the 
employers' aims, though not to secure their own demands. 
The Central Association of Master Builders clung despe- 
rately to the Document, but failed to obtain an adequate 
number of men willing to subscribe to its terms. In 
December 1859 a suggestion was made by Lord St. 
Leonards that the Document be withdrawn, a lengthy 

The Amalgamated Carp enter 3 

statement of the law relating to trade combinations being 
hung up in all the establishments as a substitute. The 
employers' obstinacy held out for two months longer, 
but finally succumbed in February 1860, when the 
Platonic suggestion- of Lord St. Leonards was adopted, 
and the embittered dispute was brought to an end. 

This drawn battle between the forces of Capital and 
Labour ranks as a leading event in Trade Union history, 
not only because it revived the feeling of solidarity between 
different trades, but also on account of the importance 
of two consolidating organisations to which it gave birth. 
Out of the Building Trades Strike of 1859-60 arose the 
London Trades Council (to be described in the following 
chapter) and the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters, 
the most notable adoption by another trade of the " New 
Model " introduced by Newton and Allan. 

The strike had revealed to the London carpenters the 
complete state of disorganisation into which their industry 
had fallen. It was they, it is true, who had initiated the 
Nine Hours Movement in the Metropolis, but the com- 
mittee which memorialised the employers had represented 
no body of organised workmen. George Potter, who was 
the leader of this movement, could draw around him only a 
group of delegates elected by the men in each shop. There 
were, indeed, not more than about a thousand carpenters 
in London who were members of any trade society whatso- 
ever, and these were scattered among numerous tiny benefit 
clubs. The Friendly Society of Operative Carpenters, 
which, as we have seen, was a militant branch of the Builders' 
Union of 1830-34, had, like the Stonemasons' Society, 
maintained a continuous existence. Unlike that society, 
however, it had kept the old character of a loose federation 
for trade purposes only, depending for its finances upon 
occasional levies. Perhaps for this reason it had lost its 
exclusive hold upon the provinces, and had gained no footing 
in London. As a competent observer remarks : "At the 
time of the 1859-60 strikes the masons alone of the build- 

232 The New Spirit and the New Model 

ing trades were organised into a single society extending 
throughout England, and providing not only for trade 
purposes, but for the ordinary benefits. . . . The London 
masons locked out were supported regularly and punctually 
by their society, and could have continued the struggle 
for an indefinite time ; but the other trades, split up into 
numerous local societies, were soon reduced to extremities." l 
The Carpenters' Committee saw with envy the capacity 
of the Stonemasons' Society to provide long-continued 
strike pay for its members, and were profoundly impressed 
by the successive donations of 1000 each made by the 
Amalgamated Engineers. Directly the strike was over, 
the leading members of the little benefit clubs met together 
to discuss the formation of a national organisation on the 
Engineers' model. William Allan lent them every assistance 
in adapting the rules of his own society to the carpenters' 
trade, and watched over the preliminary proceedings. The 
new society started on June 4, 1860, with a few hundred 
members. For the first two years its progress was slow ; 
but in October 1862 it had the good fortune to elect as 
its general secretary a man whose ability and cautious 
sagacity promptly raised it to a position of influence in 
the Trade Union world. Robert Applegarth, secretary 
of a local Carpenters' Union at Sheffield, had been quick 
to perceive the advantages of- amalgamation, and had 
brought his society over with him. ' Under his admini- 
stration the new Union advanced by leaps and bounds, 
and in a few years it stood, in magnitude of financial trans- 
actions and accumulated funds, second only to the Amalga- 
mated Society of Engineers itself. Moreover, Applegarth's 
capacity brought him at once into that little circle of Trade 
Union leaders whose activity forms during the next ten 
years the central point of Trade Union history. 

1 Prof. E. S. Beesly, Fortnightly Review, 1867. 



MANY influences had during the preceding years been 
co-operating to form what may almost be described as a 
cabinet of the Trade Union Movement. The establish- 
ment of such great trade friendly societies as the Amalga- 
mated Engineers had created, in some sense, a new school 
of Trade Union officials, face to face with intricate problems 
of administration and finance. The presence in London 
of the headquarters of these societies brought their salaried 
officers into close personal intimacy with each other. And 
it so happened that during these years the little circle of 
secretaries included men of marked character and ability, 
who were, both by experience and by temperament, ad- 
mirably fitted to guide the movement through the acute 
crisis which we shall presently describe. 

Foremost in this little group which we shall hereafter 
call the Junta were the general secretaries of the two amal- 
gamated societies of Engineers and Carpenters, William 
Allan and Robert Applegarth, whose success in building up 
these powerful organisations had given them great influence 
in Trade Union councils. Bound to these in close personal 
friendship were Daniel Guile, the general secretary of the 
old and important national society of Ironfounders, Edwin 
Coulson, general secretary of the " London Order " of Brick- 
layers, and George Odger, a prominent member of a small 
union of highly^ skilled makers of ladies' shoes, and an 
influential leader of London working-class Radicalism. 

233 1 2 

234 The Junta and their Allies 

William Allan was the originator of the " New Unionism " 
of his time. 1 We have already described how, with the aid 
of William Newton, he had gathered up the scattered frag- 
ments of organisation in the engineering trade, and had 
adapted the elaborate constitution and financial system of 
an old-established society to the needs of a great national 
amalgamation. In long hours of patient labour in the office 
he had built up an extremely methodical, if somewhat 
cumbrous, system of financial checks and trade reports, by 
which the exact position of each of his tens of thousands 
of members was at all times recorded in his official pigeon- 
holes. The permanence of his system is the best testimony 
to its worth. Even to-day the Engineers' head office retains 
throughout the impress of Allan's tireless and methodical 
industry. Excessive caution, red-tape precision, an almost 
miserly solicitude for the increase of the society's funds, 
were among Allan's defects. But at a time when working 
men " agitators " were universally credited with looseness 
in money matters and incapacity for strenuous and regular 
mental effort, these defects, however equivocal may have 
been their ultimate effect on the policy and development 
of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, produced a 
favourable impression on the public. Allan, moreover, 
though not a brilliant speaker, or a man of wide general 
interests, was a keen working-class politician, whose temper 
and judgement could always be depended on. And he has 

1 William Allan was born of Scotch parents at Carrickfergus, Ulster, 
in 1813. His father, who was manager of a cotton-spinning mill, re- 
moved to a mill near Glasgow, and William became in 1825 a piecer in 
a cotton factory at Gateside. Three years later he left the mill to be 
bound apprentice to Messrs. Holdsworth, a large engineering firm at 
Anderston, Glasgow. At the age of nineteen, before his apprenticeship 
was completed, he married the niece of one of the partners. In 1835 he 
went to work as a journeyman engineer at Liverpool, moving thence, 
with the railway works, to their new centre at Crewe, where he joined 
his Union. On the imprisonment of Selsby, in 1847, he became its general 
secretary, retaining this office when, in 1851, the society became merged 
in the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. For over twenty years he 
was annually re-elected secretary of this vast organisation, dying at last 
in office in 1874. 

Robert Applegarth 235 

left behind him the tradition, not only of absolute integrity 
and abnormal industry, but also of a singular freedom from 
personal vanity or ambition. 

Whilst Allan aimed at transforming the " paid agitator " 
into the trusted officer of a great financial corporation, 
Robert Applegarth sought to win for the Trade Union 
organisation a recognised social and political status. 
Astute and lawyer-like in temperament, he instinctively 
made use of those arguments which were best fitted to 
overcome the prejudices and disarm the criticisms of 
middle-class opponents. Nor did he limit himself to justi- 
fying the ways of Trade Unionists to the world at large. 
He made persistent attempts to enlarge the mental horizon 
of the rank and file of his own movement, opening out to 
those whose vision had hitherto been limited to the strike 
and the tap-room, whole vistas of social and political 
problems in which they as working men were primarily con- 
cerned. Hence we find him, during his career as general 
secretary, a leading member of the famous " International," 1 

1 The celebrated " International Association of Working Men," which 
loomed so large in the eyes of Governments and the governing classes 
about 1869-70, had arisen out of the visit of two French delegates to 
London in 1863, to concert joint action on behalf of Poland. It was 
formally established at a meeting in London on September 28, 1864, at 
which an address prepared by Karl Marx was read. Its fundamental 
aim was the union of working men of all countries for the emancipation 
of labour ; and its principles went on to declare that " the subjection of 
the man of labour to the man of capital lies at the bottom of all servitude, 
all social misery, and all political dependence." Between 1864 and 1870, 
branches were established in nearly all European countries, as well as in 
the United States, the majority of trade societies in some European 
countries joining in a body. The central administration was entrusted 
to a General Council of fifty-five members sitting in London, which was 
composed of London residents of various nationalities, elected by the 
branches in the countries to which they belonged. The General Council 
had, however, no legislative or other control over the branches, and in 
practice served as little more than a means of communication between 
them, each country managing its own affairs in its own way. The prin- 
ciples and programme of the Association underwent a steady development 
in the succession of annual international congresses attended by delegates 
from the various branches. The extent to which English working men 
really participated in its fundamental objects is not clear. In 1870 
Odger was president and Applegarth chairman of the General Council, 
which included Benjamin Lucraft, afterwards a member of the London 

236 The Junta and their Allies 

and an energetic promoter of the Labour Representation 
League, the National Education League, and various philan- 
thropic and political associations. Political reformers 
became eager to secure his adhesion to their projects : he 
was, for instance, specially invited to attend the important 
conferences of the National Education League at Birming- 
ham as the special representative of the working classes ; 
and it was owing to his reputation as a social reformer that 
he was in 1870 selected to sit on the Royal Commission 
upon the Contagious Diseases Acts, thus becoming the first 
working man to be styled by his Sovereign " Our Trusty 
and Well-beloved." Open-minded, alert, and conciliatory, 
he formed an ideal representative of the English Labour 
Movement in the political world. 1 

School Board, and other well-known working-men politicians. But few 
English Trade Unions (among them being the Bootmakers and Curriers) 
joined in their corporate capacity ; and when, in October 1866, the 
General Council invited the London Trades Council to join, or, that 
failing, to give permission for a representative of the International to 
attend its meetings, with a view of promptly reporting all Continental 
strikes, the Council's minutes show that both requests were refused. The 
London Trades Council declined indeed to recognise the International 
even as the authorised medium of communication with trade societies 
abroad, and decided to communicate with these directly. Applegarth 
attended several of the Continental congresses as a delegate from England, 
and elaborately explained the aims and principles of the Association in 
an interview published in the New York World of May 21 1870. After 
the suppression of the Commune the branches in France were crushed 
out of existence ; and the membership in England and other countries 
fell away. The annual Congress held in 1872 at The Hague decided to 
transfer the General Council to New York, and the " International " 
ceased to play any part in the English Labour Movement. An interest- 
ing account of its Trade Unionist action appeared in the Fortnightly 
Review for November 1870, by Professor E. S. Beesly. 

1 Robert Applegarth, the son of a quartermaster in the Royal Navy, 
was born at Hull on January 23, 1833. At the age of, eleven he went 
to work as errand boy, eventually drifting into the shop of a joiner and 
cabinetmaker, where, unapprenticed, he picked up the trade as best he 
could. In 1852 he moved to Sheffield; but in 1855, on the death of 
his parents, he emigrated to the United States, returning to Sheffield in 
the following year, as the* health of his wife did not allow her to follow 
him to the land of promise. Joining the local Carpenters' Union, he 
quickly became its most prominent member, and brought it over in a 
body when the formation in 1861 of the Amalgamated Society of Car- 
penters and Joiners offered a prospect of more efficient trade action. 

George Odger 237 

The permanent officials of the Ironfounders and the 
London Bricklayers were men of less originality than Allan 
or Applegarth. Guile was a man of attractive personality 
and winning manner, gifted with a certain rugged eloquence. 
Coulson is described by an opponent as being " stolid and 
obstinate," and again as " bricky and stodgy " ; but the 
expansion, under his influence, of the little London Society 
of Bricklayers into a powerful Union of national scope, 
proves him to have possessed administrative ability of no 
mean order. The special distinction of all four alike was 
their business capacity, shown by the persistency and 
success with which they pursued, each in his own trade, 
the policy originated by Newton and Allan, of basing Trade 
Union organisation upon an insurance company of national 
extent. George Odger brought to the Junta quite other 
qualities than the cautious industry of Allan or the lawyer- 
like capacity of Applegarth. Of the five men we have men- 
tioned he was the only one who continued to work at his 
trade, and who retained to the last the full flavour of a 
working-class leader. An orator of remarkable power, he 
swayed popular meetings at his will, and was the idol of 
Metropolitan Radicalism. But he was no mere demagogue. 
Beneath his brilliant rhetoric and emotional fervour there 

Elected general secretary in 1862, he retained the office until 1871, when, 
in consequence of various personal disputes in the society, he voluntarily 
resigned. In 1870, on the formation of the London School Board, he 
stood as a candidate for the Lambeth division, but was unsuccessful, 
though he received 7600 votes. In the same year he was invited to 
become a candidate for Parliament for the borough of Maidstone, but he 
retired in favour of Sir John Lubbock. In 1 871 he was appointed a member 
of the Royal Commission on the Contagious Diseases Act. On resigning 
his secretaryship he turned for a time to journalism, and acted as war 
correspondent in France for an American newspaper. Shortly afterwards 
he became foreman to a firm of manufacturers of engineering and diving 
apparatus, eventually becoming the proprietor of this flourishing busi- 
ness and retiring with a small competence. Mr. Applegarth, who is 
(1920) the sole survivor of the " Junta " of 1867-71, still retains his 
membership of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and his interest 
in Trade Unionism, about which he has given us valuable documents and 
reminiscences. See The Life of Robert Applegarth, by A. W. Humphrey, 

238 The Junta and their Allies 

lay a large measure of political shrewdness, and he shared 
with his colleagues the capacity for deliberately concerted 
action and personal subordination. His dilatory and un- 
businesslike habits made him incapable of building up a 
great organisation. Had he stood alone, he would have 
added little to the strength of Trade Unionism ; as the loyal 
adherent of the great officials and their popular mouth- 
piece to the working-class world, Unionist and non-Unionist 
alike, he gave the movement a wider basis, and attracted 
into its ranks every ardent reformer belonging to the artisan 
class. 1 

It is difficult to-day to convey any adequate idea of the 
extraordinary personal influence exercised by these five 
men, not only on their immediate associates, but also as 
interpreters of the Trade Union Movement, upon the public 
and the governing classes. For the first time in the century 

1 Daniel Guile was born at Liverpool, October 21, 1814, the son of a 
shoemaker. Bound apprentice to an ironfounder in 1827, he joined the 
Union in June 1834. In 1863 he became its corresponding secretary, a 
position he retained until his retirement at the end of 1881. He was a 
member of the Parliamentary Committee, 1871-5, and died December 7,1883. 

George Odger, the son of a Cornish miner, was born in 1820, at 
Rouborough, near Tavistock, South Devon, and became a shoemaker at 
an early age. Tramping about the country, as was then customary, he 
eventually settled in London, becoming a prominent member of the 
Ladies' Shoemakers' Society. His first important public action was m 
connection with the meetings of delegates of London trades on the build- 
ing trades lock-out in 1859. On the formation of the London Trades 
Council in 1860 he became one of its leading members, and from 1862 
until the reconstruction of the Council in 1872 he acted as its secretary. 
As one of the leaders of London working-class Radicalism he made five 
attempts to get into Parliament, but was each time baulked by the opposi- 
tion of the official Liberal party. At Chelsea in 1868, at Stratford in 
1869, and at Bristol in 1870 he retired rather than split the vote, but at 
South wark in 1870 he went to the poll, and failed of success only by 
304 votes, the official Liberal, Sir Sidney Waterlow, being at the bottom 
with 2966 votes as against 4382 given for Odger. At the General Election 
of 1874 he again stood, to be once more opposed by both Liberals and 
Conservatives witii the same result as before. He died in 1877, his 
funeral, which was attended by Professor E. Beesly, Professor Fawcett, 
and Sir Charles Dilke, being made the occasion of a remarkable demonstra- 
tion by the London working men. An eulogy of him by Professor Beesly 
appeared in the Weekly Despatch, March n, 1877. A brief biographical 
sketch was published under the title of The Life and Labour oj George 
Odger, 1877. 

The Policy of the Junta 239 

the working-class movement came under the direction, not 
of middle and upper class sympathisers like Place, Owen, 
Roberts, O'Connor, or Buncombe, but of genuine workmen 
specially trained for the position. For the first time, more- 
over, the leaders 'of working-class politics stood together 
in a compact group, united by a close personal friendship, 
and absolutely free from any trace of that suspiciousness 
or disloyalty which have so often marred popular move- 
ments. They brought to their task, it is true, no consis- 
tent economic theory or political philosophy. They sub- 
scribed with equal satisfaction to the crude Collectivism of 
the " International," and the dogmatic industrial Indivi- 
dualism of the English Radicals. This absence of a definite 
basis to their political activity accounts, we think, for the 
drying up of Trade Union politics after their withdrawal. 
We shall have occasion hereafter to notice other " defects 
of their qualities," and the way in which these subsequently 
stunted the further development of their own movement. 
But it was largely their very limitations which made them, 
at this particular crisis, such valuable representatives of 
the Trade Union Movement. They accepted, with perfect 
good faith, the economic Individualism of their middle- 
class opponents, and claimed only that freedom to combine 
which the more enlightened members of that class were 
willing to concede to them. Their genuine if somewhat 
restrained enthusiasm for political and industrial freedom 
gave them a persistency and determination which no check 
could discourage. Their understanding of the middle-class 
point of view, and their appreciation of the practical diffi- 
culties of the situation, saved them from being mere dema- 
gogues. For the next ten years, when it was all-important 
to obtain a legal status for trade societies and to obliterate 
the unfortunate impression created by the Sheffield outrages, 
their qualities exactly suited the emergency. The posses- 
sion of good manners, though it may seem a trivial detail, 
was not the least of their advantages. To perfect self- 
respect and integrity they added correctness of expression, 

240 The Junta and their Allies 

habits of personal propriety, and a remarkable freedom 
from all that savoured of the tap-room. In Allan and Apple- 
garth, Guile, Coulson, and Odger, the traducers of Trade 
Unionism found themselves confronted with a combination 
of high personal character, exceptional business capacity, 
and a large share of that official decorum which the English 
middle class find so impressive. 

Round these central personalities grouped themselves in 
London a number of men of like temperament and aims. 
We have already had occasion to mention T. J. Dunning, 
of the Bookbinders, grown old in the service of Trade 
Unionism. The building trades contributed a younger 
generation, John Prior, George Howell, Henry Broadhurst, 
and George Shipton. The whole group were in touch with 
certain provincial leaders, who adhered to the new views, 
and acted in close concert with the Junta. Of these, the 
most noteworthy were Alexander Macdonald, then busily 
organising the Miners' National Union, John Kane, 1 of the 
North of England Ironworkers, William Dronfield, the 
Sheffield compositor, and Alexander Campbell, the leading 
spirit of the Glasgow Trades Council. 

The distinctive policy of the Junta was the combina- 
tion of extreme caution in trade matters and energetic 
agitation for political reforms. It is indeed somewhat 
doubtful how far Allan and Applegarth, Coulson and Guile 
shared the popular belief that trade combinations could 
effect a general rise of wages or resist a. general reduction 
in a falling market. They had more faith in the moral 
force of great reserve funds, by the aid of which, dispensed 
in liberal out-of-work donations, one capitalist, or even a 

1 John Kane was born at Alnwick, Northumberland, in 1819. Sent 
to work at seven, he served in various capacities until the age of fifteen, 
when he moved tc Newcastle-on-Tyne, and entered the ironworks of 
Messrs. Hawke at Gateshead. Here he took part in the Chartist and 
other progressive movements, making a vain attempt in 1842 to form a 
Union in his trade. Not until 1863 was a durable society established, 
and when in 1868 the Amalgamated Ironworkers' Association was formed 
on a national basis, John Kane became general secretary, a position he 
retained until his death in March 1876. 

Old-fashioned Unionism 241 

whole group of capitalists, might be effectually prevented 
from obtaining labour at anything but the standard condi- 
tions. Their trade policy was, in fact, restricted to securing 
for every workman those terms which the best employers 
were willing voluntarily to grant. For this reason they were 
constantly accused of apathy by those hotter spirits whose 
idea of successful Trade Unionism was a series of general 
strikes for advances or against reductions. The Junta were 
really looking in another direction for the emancipation of 
the worker. They believed that a levelling down of all 
political privileges, and the opening out of educational and 
social opportunities to all classes of the community, would 
bring in its train a large measure of economic equality. 
Under the influence of these leaders the London Unions, 
and eventually those of the provinces, were drawn into a 
whole series of political agitations, for the Franchise, for 
amendment of the Master and Servant law, for new Mines 
Regulation Acts, for National Education, and finally for the 
full legalisation of Trade Unions themselves. 

Practical difficulties hampered the complete execution 
of the Junta's policy. The use of the Trade Union organisa- 
tion for Parliamentary agitation, on which Macdonald, 
Applegarth, and Odger based all their expectations of 
progress, came as a new idea to the Trade Union world. 
The rank and file of Trade Unionists, still excluded from 
the franchise, took practically no interest in any social or 
political reform, and regarded their trade combinations 
exclusively as means of extorting a rise of wages or of com- 
pelling their fellow- workmen to join their clubs. This was 
especially the case with the provincial organisations, where 
the officials usually shared the obscurantism of their 
members. The " Manchester Order " of Bricklayers and the 
General Union of Carpenters (headquarters, Manchester) 
were, like the Midland Brickmakers and the Sheffield Cutlers, 
still ,wedded to the old ideas of secrecy and coercion, whilst 
the powerful society of Masons, then centred at Leeds, held 
aloof from the general movement. But this resistance was 

242 The Junta and their Allies 

not confined to the older societies, nor to those of any par- 
ticular locality. All the Unions of that time, even those of 
the Metropolis, retained a strong traditional repugnance to 
political action. In many cases the rules expressly forbade 
all mention of politics in their meetings. And although the 
societies could be occasionally induced to take joint action 
of a political character in defence of Trade Unionism itself, 
not even the great influence of the Junta upon their own 
Unions sufficed to persuade the members to turn their 
organisations to account for legislative reform. The Junta 
turned, therefore, to the newly established Trades Councils 
and made these the political organs of the Trade Union 

The formation between 1858 and 1867 of permanent 
Trades Councils in the leading industrial centres was an 
important step in the consolidation of the Trade Union 
Movements Local delegate meetings, summoned to deal 
with particular emergencies, had been a feature of Trade 
Union organisation, at any rate since the beginning of 
the nineteenth century. In early times every important 
strike had its committee of sympathisers from other trade 
societies, who collected subscriptions and rendered what 
personal aid they could. But the most notable of these 
committees were those which started up in all the centres 
of Trade Unionism when the movement was threatened 
by some particular legal or Parliamentary danger. Such 
joint committees had in 1825 contributed powerfully to 
defeat the re-enactment of the Combination Laws, in 1834 
to arouse public feeling in the case of the Dorchester 
labourers, and in 1838 to conduct the Trade Union case 
before the Parliamentary Committee of that year. But 
these earlier committees were formed only for particular 
emergencies, and had, so far as we know, no continuous 
existence. By 1860 permanent councils were in existence 
in Glasgow, Sheffield, Liverpool, and Edinburgh, and their 
example was, in 1861, followed by the London trades. 1 

1 The first permanent committee of the nature of a Trades Council 

The London Trades Council 243 

Like many provincial organisations, the London Trades 
Council originated in a " Strike Committee." During the 

appears to have been, according to our information, the Liverpool " Trades 
Guardian Association," .which was established in 1848 with the object of 
protecting Trade Unions from suppression by the employers' use of the 
criminal law. From its printed report and balance sheet for 1848, and 
the -references in the Fortnightly Circular of the Stonemasons' Society for 
November 23, 1848, we gather that it took vigorous action to protect the 
Sheffield razor-grinders from malicious prosecution, and to help the Liver- 
pool masons who had been indicted for conspiracy. Of its activity from 
1850 to 1857 we possess no records, but in August 1857 it subscribed 
^400 in aid of the Liverpool cabinetmakers, and in 1861 it was assisting 
the London bricklayers' strike. In July of that year it was merged in a 
" United Trades Protection Association," formed upon the model of the 
newly established London Trades Council. In Glasgow there appears to 
have been, since 1825, an almost continuous series of joint committees of 
delegates for particular purposes. An attempt was made in 1851 to place 
these on a permanent footing, but the trades soon ceased to send delegates. 
A renewed attempt in 1858, made at the instance of Alexander Campbell, 
met with greater success ; and the Council then established, composed 
principally of the building trades, was in 1860 enjoying a vigorous life. 
Sheffield, too, had long had ephemeral federations of the local trades, 
which came near having a continuous existence. One of these, the " Asso- 
ciation of Organised Trades," established in 1857 with the special object 
of assisting the Sheffield Typographical Society in defending a libel action, 
became the permanent Trades Council. Other towns, such as Dublin 
and Bristol, had almost constantly some kind of Council of the local 
trades. An appeal of the Trade Defence Association of Manchester, 
signed by representatives of nine thousand operatives on behalf of the 
dyers' strike, occurs in the Stonemasons' Fortnightly Circular for 1854. 
In London, as may be gathered from George Odger's evidence before the 
Master and Servant Law Committee in 1867, the meetings of " Metro- 
politan Trades Delegates " had been particularly frequent since 1848. 
In 1852, for instance, as we discover from the Bookbinders' Trade Circular 
(November 1853), a committee of the London trades took the case of 
the Wolverhampton tinplate workers out of the hands of the somewhat 
decrepit National Association of United Trades, and bore the whole cost 
of these expensive legal proceedings. No sooner had the task of this 
committee been completed, when another committee was formed to assist 
the strike of the Preston cotton operatives. It was to this committee, 
sitting at the Bell Inn, Old Bailey, the historic meeting-place of London 
Trade Unionism, that Lloyd Jones, in March 1855, communicated his 
fears that a certain Friendly Societies' Bill, then before the House of 
Commons, would make the legal position of trade societies even more 
equivocal than it then was. A " Metropolitan Trades Committee on the 
Friendly Societies' Bill " was accordingly formed, the printed report of 
which is reviewed by Dunning in his Circular for December 1855. From 
this we learn that it was presided over by William Allan, and that it 
included his old friend William Newton, as well as the general secretaries 
of the Stonemasons' and Bricklayers' Societies, and representatives of the 

244 The Junta and their Allies 

winter of 1859-60 weekly meetings of delegates from the 
Metropolitan trades had been held to support the Building 
Operatives in their resistance to the " document." " At 
the termination of that memorable struggle," states the 
Second Annual Report of the London Trades Council," it 
was felt that something should be done to establish a general 
trades committee so as to be able on emergency to call the 
trades together with despatch for the purpose of rendering 
each other advice or assistance as the circumstances 
required." In March 1860 the provisional committee 
formed with this object issued an " Address " to the trades, 
which resulted, on July 10, 1860, in the first meeting of 
the present London Trades Council. 

It is interesting to notice that the Council, at the outset, 
was composed mainly of the representatives of the smaller 
societies. The Executive Committee elected at its first 
meeting included no delegates from the engineers, com- 
positors, masons, bricklayers, or ironfounders, who were 
then the most influential of the London Trade Societies. 
The first action of the young Council affords a significant 
indication of the feeling of isolation which led to its forma- 
tion. In order to facilitate communications with other 
trade societies throughout the kingdom it resolved to 
compile a General Trades Union Directory, containing the 
names and addresses of all Trade Union secretaries. This 

Compositors and Bookbinders. It was supported by eighty-seven different 
Trade Unions with forty-eight thousand members, who contributed a 
halfpenny per member to cover the expenses. Its Parliamentary action 
seems to have been vigorous and effective. The objectionable clauses 
were, by skilful Parliamentary lobbying, dropped out of the Bill, and 
what seemed at the time to be an important step towards the legislation 
of trade societies was, through the help of Thomas Hughes and Lord 
Goderich, secured. Between 1858 and 1867 Trades Councils were estab- 
lished in about a dozen of the largest towns. The Trade Union expansion 
of 1870-73 saw their number doubled. But their great increase was 
one of the effects of the great wave of Trade Union organisation which 
swept over the country in 1889-91, when over sixty new councils were 
established, and those already in existence were reorganised and greatly 
increased in membership. 

1 Second Annual Report of London Trades Council, March 31, 1862. 

Payment by the Hour 245 

praiseworthy enterprise took up all the attention of the 
new body for the first year, and the printing of two thousand 
copies of the result of its work crippled its finances for long 
afterwards. For, unfortunately, the General Trades Union 
Directory, published at one shilling per copy, did not sell 
and was, we fear, soon consigned to the pulping mill, as we 
have, after exhaustive search, been able to discover only two 
copies in existence. 1 

But the direction of the Council was falling into abler 
hands. In 1861 George Howell became secretary, to be 
succeeded in the following year by George Odger, who for 
the next ten years remained its most prominent member. 
The Amalgamated Society of Engineers joined in 1861, and 
the veteran Dunning brought over the old-established 
Union of Bookbinders. By 1864, at any rate, the new 
organisation was entirely dominated by the Junta. The 
two " amalgamated " societies of Engineers and Carpenters 
supplied, in some years, half its income. The great trade 
friendly society of Ironfounders and the growing " London 
Order " of Bricklayers sent their general secretaries to its 
meetings. The Council became, in effect, a joint committee 
of the officers of the large national societies. In the meetings 
at the old Bell Inn, under the shadow of Newgate, we have 
the beginnings of an informal cabinet of the Trade Union 

Meanwhile war had again broken out between the master 
builders and their operatives, caused partly by a renewed 
agitation for the Nine Hours Day, and partly by the 
employers' desire to substitute payment by the hour for 
the previous custom of payment by the day. 2 For the 

1 No copy is preserved in the British Museum nor among the archives 
of the Trades Council itself. Mr. Robert Applegarth kindly presented us 
with a copy, which is now in the British Library of Political Science at 
the London School of Economics. The only other one known to us is in 
the Goldsmiths' Library at the University of London. 

z On receipt of a memorial from the operatives asking for the intro- 
duction of the Nine Hours Day, three of the principal London builders 
gave notice that henceforth they would engage their workmen, not by 
the day, but by the hour. " This arrangement," they added, " of payment 

246 The Junta and their Allies 

historian of the general movement the dispute is chiefly 
important as furnishing the occasion of the first interven- 
tion of the talented group of young barristers and literary 
men who, from this time forth, became the trusted legal 
experts and political advisers of the leaders of the Trade 
Union Movement. The workmen had totally failed to 
make clear their objection to the Hour System, or even to 
obtain a hearing of their case. Their position was, for the 
first time, intelligibly explained in two brilliant letters 
addressed to the newspapers by eight Positivists and Chris- 
tian Socialists, which did much to bring about the tacit 
compromise in which the struggle ended. 1 

Of more immediate interest to us is the action taken by 
the newly formed London Trades Council. Among the 
building operations suspended by the dispute was the 

by the hour will enable any workman employed by us to work any 
number of hours he may think proper." This specious proposal involved 
a total abandonment of the principle of Collective Bargaining. What 
the master builders proposed was, in effect, to do away with the very 
conception of a normal day, and to revert, as far as the hours were con- 
cerned, to separate contracts with each individual workman. The work- 
men realised, what they failed clearly to explain, that the proffered free- 
dom was illusory. In the modern organisation of industry on a large 
scale there can be no freedom for the individual workman to drop his 
tools at whatever moment he chooses. Without a concerted normal day, 
each workman must inevitably find his task continue as long as the 
engines are going or the works are open. The real question at issue was 
how the common hours of labour should be fixed. The master builders 
of 1 86 1 rightly calculated that if each man was really free to earn as 
many hours' wages in the day as they chose to offer him, the hours during 
which the whole body would work would, in effect, be governed, not by 
the general convenience, but by the desire and capacity of those willing 
to work the longest day. On this, the essential issue, the men maintained 
their position. The normal day in the London building trades was 
tacitly fixed according to the prevailing custom, and has since been 
repeatedly regulated and reduced by formal collective agreement until 
the average working week throughout the year consists of less than 48 
hours. The minor point of the unit of remuneration was gradually con- 
ceded by the men, and the Hour System, guarded by strict limitation of 
the working day, has come to be preferred by both parties. 

1 The letters were drawn up by Frederic Harrison and Godfrey Lush- 
ington, after personal investigation and inquiry, and were signed also by 
T. Hughes, J. M. Ludlow, E. S. Beesly, R. H. Hutton, R. B Litchfield, 
and T. R. Bennett. They appeared in July 1861, 

Trades Council Policy 247 

construction, by a large contractor, of the new Chelsea 
barracks. The War Department saw no harm in per- 
mitting him to engage the sappers of the Royal Engineers 
to take the place of the men on strike. A similar course 
had been taken by 'the Government in strikes of 1825 and 
1834. But the Trade Unions were now too powerful to 
allow of any such interference in their battles. A delegate 
meeting of the London trades, comprising representatives 
of fifty industries and fifty thousand operatives, sent a 
deputation to the War Office. Sir George Cornwall Lewis 
returned at first an equivocal answer, but the new Trades 
Council proved the efficacy of Parliamentary agitation by 
getting questions put to the Minister in the House of 
Commons, and stirring up enough feeling to compel him to 
withdraw the troops. 

The minute-books of the London Trades Council from 
1860 to 1867 present a mirror of the Trade Union history 
of this period. Odger had the rare gift of making his 
minutes interesting, and he describes, in his terse but 
graphic English, all the varied events of the Labour Move- 
ment as they were brought before the Council. In 1861-62, 
for instance, we see the Council trying vainly to settle the 
difficult problem of "overlap" between the trades of the 
shipwrights and the iron-shipbuilders ; we notice the 
shadow cast by the Lancashire cotton famine, and we read 
indignant resolutions condemning the Sheffield outrages of 
those years. But the special interest of these minutes lies 
in their unconscious revelation of the way in which the 
Council became the instrument of the new policy of partici- 
pation in general politics. Under Odger's influence the 
Council took a prominent part in organising the popular 
welcome to Garibaldi, and in 1862 it held a great meeting 
in St. James's Hall in support of the struggle of the Northern 
States against negro slavery, at which John Bright was 
the principal speaker. In 1864 the Junta placed itself 
definitely in opposition to the " Old Unionists," who 
objected to all connection between the Government and the 

248 The Junta and their Allies 

concerns of working men. W. E. Gladstone, who was then 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, had introduced a Bill enabling 
the Post Office to sell Government Annuities for small 
amounts. Against this harmless project George Potter, the 
leading opponent of the Junta, summoned great public 
meetings of the London trades, enlisted on his side the 
Operative Stonemasons and other provincial organisations, 
and vehemently denounced the Bill as an insidious attempt 
to divert the savings of working men from their Trade 
Unions and benefit societies into an exchequer controlled 
by the governing classes. The London Trades Council sent 
an influential deputation to Gladstone publicly to disavow 
the action of Potter, and to welcome the proposal of the 
Government to utilise the administrative organisation for 
the advantage of the working class. Of more significance 
was the alteration of the Council's policy with regard to 
political reform. The early members had set themselves 
against the introduction of politics in any guise whatso- 
ever, and during the years 1861-62 Howell and Odger strove 
in vain to enlist the Council in the agitation for a new 
Reform Bill. But in 1866, under the influence of Odger 
and Applegarth, Allan and Coulson, the Council enthusi- 
astically threw itself into the demonstration in favour of 
the Reform Bill brought in by the Liberal Government, 
and took a leading part in the agitation which resulted in 
the enfranchisement of the town artisan. 1 In the same 
year the Council agreed to co-operate with the " Inter- 
national " in demanding Democratic Reform from all 
European Governments. 

The widely advertised public action of the London 
Trades Council excited considerable interest in provincial 
centres of Trade Unionism. We see the Council in frequent 

1 Many of the local Birmingham Trade Unions became directly affiliated 
to the National Reform League. But with the exception of two small 
clubs at Wolverhampton, and the West End Cabinetmakers (London), 
no other Trade Union appears to have joined the League in a corporate 
capacity, though its Council included Allan, Applegarth, Coulson, Cremer, 
Odger Potter, and Conolly. 

The Master and Servant Act 249 

correspondence with similar bodies at Glasgow, Nottingham, 
Sheffield, and other provincial towns, and often exercising 
a kind of informal leadership in general movements. But 
it would be unfair to ascribe the whole initiative in legis- 
lative reform to the London officials. Under the brilliant 
leadership of Alexander Macdonald, whose work we shall 
hereafter describe, the force of the coal - miners was 
being marshalled for Parliamentary agitation ; and Mac- 
donald' s friend, Alexander Campbell, was bringing the 
Glasgow Trades Council round to the new policy. 
And it was Campbell and Macdonald, working through 
these organisations, who carried through the most 
important Trade Union achievement of the next few 
years, the amendment of the law relating to master and 

It is difficult in these days, when equality of treatment 
before the law has become an axiom, to understand how 
the flagrant injustice of the old Master and Servant Acts 
seemed justifiable even to a middle-class Parliament. If 
an employer broke a contract of service, even wilfully and 
without excuse, he was liable only to be sued for damages, 
or, in the case of wages under 10, to be summoned before 
a court of summary jurisdiction, which could order payment 
of the amount due. The workman, on the other hand, who 
wilfully broke his contract of service, either by absenting 
himself from his employment, or by leaving his work, was 
liable to be proceeded against for a criminal offence, and I 
punished by three months' imprisonment. This inequality 
of treatment was, moreover, aggravated by various other 
anomalies. It followed by the general law of evidence that, 
whilst a master sued by a servant could be witness in his 
own favour, the servant prosecuted by his employer could 
not give evidence on his own behalf ; and it frequently 
happened that no other evidence than the employer's could 
be produced. It was in the power of a single justice of the 
peace, on an information on oath, to issue a warrant for the 
summary arrest of the workman, who thus found himself. 

250 The Junta and their A Hies 

v/ when a dispute occurred, suddenly seized, even in his bed, 1 ! 
and haled to prison at the discretion of a magistrate, who$ 
was in many cases himself an employer of labour. The 
case was heard before a single justice of the peace, and the! 
hearing might take place at his private house. The only! 
punishment that could be inflicted was imprisonment, theii 
law not allowing the alternative of a fine or the payment'? 
of damages. From the decision of the justice, however if 
arbitrary, there was no appeal. Finally, it must be added, ;? 
the sentence of imprisonment was no discharge for a debt, I 
so that a workman was liable to be imprisoned over and| 
over again for the same breach of contract. 2 

1 The obligation to proceed by warrant was at fir^t universal, as the 
Act of 1824, 4 Geo. IV. c. 34, gave the magistrate no discretion. By * 
that act the master was to be served with a summons at the instance of f 
the workman, whilst the workman was to be arrested on a warrant on | 
the complaint upon oath of the master. But, in 1848, Jervis's Act, n 
& 12 Vic. c. 43, gave justices power in all cases to issue a summons i 
the first instance. The practice was accordingly gradually introduced i 
England of summoning the workman ; and the issue of a warrant was i 
general confined to cases in which the workman had gone away, or had 
failed to appear to a summons. Jervis's Act, however, did not apply 
Scotland, so that summary arrests of workmen on warrants continued 
until 1867 ; and this was one of the principal grievances adduced by the 
Glasgow representatives. Even in England warrants were occasionally 
granted by vindictive magistrates. In 1863 a dispute took place at a 
Durham colliery, and the employer proceeded against the miners under I 
the Master and Servant Law. " In the middle of the next night twelve ; 
of them were taken out of their beds by the police and lodged in Durham I 
lock-up, on the charge of deserting their work without notice " (Letter i 
by Professor E. S. Beesly in Spectator, December 12, 1863). 

* See Question 864, Master and Servant Law Select Committee, 1866 ; K 
Unwin v. Clarke, i Law Reports, Queen's Bench, p. 417; and Second I 
Report of Labour Laws Commission, c. 1157 (1875), p. 7. 

The enactments rendering the workman liable to imprisonment for | 
simple breach of a contract of service are historically to be traced to the 
l ;' period when the law denied to the labourer the right to withhold his 
service or to bargain as to his wages. Any neglect or abandonment of 
his work was, therefore, like a simple refusal to work at all, a breach, 
not so much of contract, as of a duty arising out of status and enforced 
by statute. The law on the subject dates, indeed, back to the celebrated 
Statute of Labourers of 1349 (23 Ed. III.), the primary object of which 
was to enforce service at the rates of hiring that existed prior to the 
Black Death. The second section of this law enacts that if a workman 
or servant depart from service before the time agreed upon he shall be 
imprisoned. The same principle was asserted in the Statute of Appren- 


Legal Persecution 251 

Early in 1863 Alexander Campbell * brought the Master 

tices in 1563 (5 Eliz. c. 4), which consolidated the law relating to all 
artificers and labourers, and expressly applied it to workers by the piece, 
who were rendered liable to imprisonment if they left before completing 
their job. During the eighteenth century, which abounded, as we have 
seen, in enactments dealing with particular trades, a long series of statutes 
made the provisions of law more definite and stringent in the industries 
in question. The principal English Acts were 7 Geo. I. st. i, c. 13 
(tailors) ; 9 Geo. I. c. 27 (shoemakers) ; 13 Geo. II. c. 8 (all leather trades) ; 
20 Geo. II c. 19; 27 Geo. II. c. 6; 31 Geo. II. c. n (various trades); 
6 Geo. III. c. 25 (agreements for a term) ; 17 Geo. III. c. 56 (textiles, 
etc.) ; 39 & 4o'Geo. III. c. 77 (coal and iron) ; 4 Geo. IV. c. 34 (all trades) ; 
10 Geo. IV. c. 52 (general) ; 6 & 7 Vic. c. 40 (textiles). 

The intolerable oppression which these laws enabled unscrupulous 
employers to commit was, at the beginning of the century, scarcely in? 
ferior to that brought about by the Combination Laws. This was strongly 
urged by the authors of A few Remarks on the Staff of the Laws at present 
in existence for regulating Masters and Workpeople (preserved among the 
Place MSS. 27804), which George White, the prompter of Peter Moore, 
M.P., published in 1823. The pieceworker clause of the Statute of 
Apprentices was particularly oppressive. "This clause," says White, 
" has been much abused, as in many businesses they never finish their 
work, as the nature of the employment is such that they are compelled 
to begin one before they finish another, as wheelwrights, japanners, and 
an infinite number of trades ; therefore if any dispute ariseth respecting 
the amount of wages, and a strike or turn-out commences, or men leave 
their work, having words, the master prosecutes them for leaving their 
work unfinished. Very few prosecutions have been made to effect under 
the Combination Act*, but hundreds have been made under this law, 
and the labourer or workman can never be free, unless this law is modified. 
The Combination Act is nothing : it is the law which regards the finishing 
of work which masters employ to harass and keep down the wages of 
their workpeople ; unless this is modified nothing is done, and by re- 
pealing the Combination Acts you leave the workman in ninety-nine 
cases out of a hundred in the same state you found him at the mercy 
of his master " (p. 51). But, in spite of this somewhat exaggerated 
protest, neither Place nor Hume took up the amendment of the law 
relating to contracts of service. Their paramount concern was to secure 
for the workman freedom to enter into a contract, and oppressive punish- 
ment for its breach attracted, for the moment, little attention. 

Besides White's Manual, the following may be referred to for the 
history of the law, and of its amendment : Report of Conference on the 
Law of Master and Workman under the Contract of Service (Glasgow, 
1864) ; the Reports of the Select Committee on the Law of Master and 
Servant, 1866, and of the Royal Commission on the Labour Laws, 1875 ; 
The Labour Laws, by James Edward Davis (1875) ; and Stephen's History 
of the Criminal Law, vol. iii. 

1 Alexander Campbell, who had been a prominent disciple of Robert 
Owen, and whom we have already seen as secretary to the little Glasgow 
Carpenters' Union of 1834, was. in 1863, editing the Glasgow Sentinel, 

252 The Junta and their Allies 

and Servant Law under the notice of the Glasgow Trades 
Council. A Parliamentary Return was obtained showing 
that the enormous number of 10,339 cases t of breach of 
contract of service came before the courts in a single year. 
A committee was formed to agitate for the amendment of 
the law, and communication was opened up, not only with 
the London leaders, but also with sympathisers in other 
provincial towns. The Trades Councils of London, Bristol, 
Sheffield, Nottingham, Newcastle, and Edinburgh were 
formally invited to unite in a combined movement. In 
Leeds and elsewhere local Trades Councils were established 
for the express purpose of forwarding the agitation ; and 
15,000 copies of a " Memorial of Information intended for 
the use of such workmen as fall under the provisions of the 
Statute 4 Geo. IV. c. 34 " * were circulated to all the leading 
workmen throughout ,the country. At the instance of 
Campbell and Macdonald, the Glasgow Trades Council con- 
vened a conference of Trade Union representatives to con- 
sider how the object of the agitation could best be secured. 
This Conference, which was held in London during four 
days of May 1864, marks an epoch in Trade Union history. 
For the first time a national meeting of Trade Union 
delegates was spontaneously convened by a Trade Union 
organisation to discuss a purely workman's question, in 
the presence of working men alone. The number of dele- 
gates did not exceed twenty, but these included the leading 
officials of all the great national and amalgamated Unions. 2 

which became the chief organ of Macdonald and his National Association 
of Miners. Campbell is described as having been, in 1858, the virtual 
founder of the Glasgow Trades Council. 

1 The Memorial, which contains an exact statement of the law and 
suggestions for its amendment, is preserved in the Flint Glass Makers' 
Magazine, December 1863. 

2 Among those present were Robert Applegarth, George Odger, 
Daniel Guile, T. J. Dunning, Alexander Macdonald, William Dronfield, 
Alexander Campbell, Edwin Coulson, and George Potter. The societies 
represented included the London Trades Council, Glasgow Trades Com- 
mittee, Sheffield Association of Organised Trades, Liverpool United Trades 
Protection Society, Nottingham Association of Organised Trades, and the 
Northumberland and Durham United Trades and Labourers ; the Amal- 

A Parliamentary Success 253 

The transactions of the Conference were thoroughly 
businesslike. Three members of the Government were 
asked to receive deputations ; a large number of members 
of Parliament were " lobbied " on the subject of an im- 
mediate amending Bill ; and finally a successful meeting 
of legislators was held in the "tea-room" of the House 
of Commons itself, at which the delegates impressed their 
desires upon all the friendly members. The terms of the 
draft Bill were settled ; Cobbett agreed to introduce it in 
the House of Commons, and the Glasgow Trades' Com- 
mittee was authorised to support it by an agitation on 
behalf of all the Trade Unions of the kingdom. 

The Bill introduced by Cobbett never became law ; but 
a vigorous agitation kept the mattejr under the notice of 
Parliament, and in 1866 a Select Committee was appointed 
to inquire into the subject. Upon its report Lord Elcho * 
succeeded, in 1867, in carrying through Parliament a Bill 
which remedied the grossest injustice of the law. The 
Master and Servant Act of 1867 (30 & 31 Vic. c. 141), 
the first positive success of the Trade Unions in the legis- 
lative field, did much to increase their confidence in Parlia- 
mentary agitation. 

But whilst the Junta and their allies were, by the 
capture of the Trades Councils, using the Trade Union 
organisation for an active political campaign, their steady 
discouragement of aggressive strikes was bringing down 
upon them the wrath of the " Old Unionists " of the time. 
It was one of the principal functions of the London Trades 
Council to grant " credentials " to trade societies having 
disputes on hand, recommending them for the support of 
workmen in other trades. As these credentials were not 
confined to London disputes, the custom placed the Council 
under the invidious necessity of either giving its sanction 

gamated Societies of Engineers and Carpenters, the National Societies of 
Bricklayers, Masons, Ironfounders, Miners, and Bookbinders, the London 
Society of Compositors, the Scottish Bakers, Sheffield Sawmakers, etc. 
1 Afterwards Earl of Wemyss. 

254 The Junta and their Allies 

to, or withholding approval from, practically every import- 
ant strike in the kingdom an arrangement which quickly 
brought the Council into conflict with the more aggressive 
societies. In two cases especially the divergence of policy 
raised serious and heated discussions. A building trades 
strike had broken out in the Midlands at the beginning of 
1864, initiated by the old Friendly Society (now styled the 
General Union) of Operative Carpenters. The men's action 
was strongly disapproved by Applegarth and the Executive 
of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters. The London 
Trades Council unhesitatingly took Applegarth's view, 
thereby alienating whole sections of the building trades, 
whose local trade clubs and provincial societies had retained 
much of the spirit of jthe Builders' Union of 1834. But the 
internal dissension arising from the carpenters' dispute fell 
far short of that brought about by the strike of the Stafford- 
shire puddlers. It is unnecessary to go into the details of 
this angry struggle against a 10 per cent reduction. The 
conduct of the men in refusing the arbitration offered by 
the Earl of Lichfield met with the disapproval of the London 
Trades Council. The hotter spirits were greatly incensed 
at the Council's moderation. George Potter, in particular, 
distinguished himself by addressing excited meetings of the 
men on strike, advising them to stand firm. 

Potter, who figures largely in the newspapers of this 
time, was in fact endeavouring to work up a formidable 
opposition to the policy of the Junta. After the building 
trades disputes of 1859-60, in which he had taken a leading 
part, he had started the Beehive, a weekly organ of the Trade 
Union world. Himself a member of a tiny trade club of 
London carpenters, he was bitterly opposed to Applegarth 
and the Amalgamated Society, and from 1864 onward we 
find him at the head of every outbreak of disaffection. An 
expert in the arts of agitation and of advertisement, Potter 
occasionally cut a remarkable figure, so that the unwary 
reader, not of the Beehive only, but also of the Times, 
might easily believe him to have been the most influential 

George Potter 255 

leader of the working-class movement. As a matter of 
fact, he at no time represented any genuine trade organisa- 
tion, the " Working Men's Association," of which he was 
president, being an unimportant society of nondescript 
persons. However, from 1864 to 1867 we find him calling 
frequent meetings of delegates of the London trades to 
denounce the Junta, and their instrument, the London Trades 
Council. The minutes of the latter body contain abun- 
dant evidence of the bitter feelings caused by these attacks, 
and make clear the essential difference between the two 
policies. At a special meeting called to condemn Potter's 
action, Howell, Allan, Coulson, and Applegarth enlarged 
upon the evil consequences of irresponsible agitation in 
trade disputes ; and Banter, the outspoken president of 
the Amalgamated Engineers, emphatically declared that 
Potter " had become the aider and abettor of strikes. He 
thought of nothing else ; he followed no other business ; 
strikes were his bread-and-cheese ; in short, he was a strike- 
jobber, and he made the Beehive newspaper his instrument 
for pushing his nose into every unfortunate dispute that 
sprang up." l 

Responsible and cautious leadership of the Trade Union 
Movement was becoming increasingly necessary. The 
growth of the great national Unions, alike in wealth and 
in membership, and the manner in which they subscribed 
in aid of each other's battles, had aroused the active enmity 
of the employers. To counteract the men's renewed 
strength, the employers once more banded themselves 
into powerful associations, and made use of a new weapon. 
The old expedient of the " document " had, since its failure 
to break down the Amalgamated Engineers in 1852, and 
to subdue the building operatives in 1859, fallen somewhat 
into discredit. It was now reinforced by the general 
" lock-out " of all the men in a particular industry, even 
those who accepted the employer's terms, in order to 
reduce to subjection the recalcitrant employees of one or 

1 Minutes of meeting of London Trades Council, March 1864. 

256 The Junta and their Allies 

two firms only. 1 The South Yorkshire coal-owners especially 
distinguished themselves during those years by their frequent 
use of the " lock-out/' One Yorkshire miner complained 
in 1866 that he had been " locked out about twenty-four 
months in six years." 2 During the year 1865 it seemed as 
if the lock-outs were about to become a feature of every 
large industry, the most notable instances being those of 
the Staffordshire ironworkers, to which we have already 
alluded, and the shipbuilding operatives on the Clyde. In 
both these cases large sections of the men were willing to 
work at the employers' terms, but were either known to 
belong to a Union or suspected of contributing to the men 
on strike. But though this practice of " locking out " 
created great excitement among working men, it did not 
achieve the employers' aim of breaking up the Unions; 
Nothing but absolute suppression by law appeared open to 
those who regarded trade combinations as " a poisonous 
plant " and an " anomalous anachronism," and who were 
vainly looking to " the happy period," both for masters and 
men, when the questions, " What is the price of a quarter 
of wheat ? " and " What is the price of a workman's day 
wage ? " shall be settled on the same principles. 3 

Nor were the employers the only people who began to 
talk once more of putting down Trade Unions by law. 
The industrial dislocation which the lock-outs, far more than 
the strikes, produced occasioned widespread loss and public 
inconvenience. The quarrels of employer and employed 
came to be vaguely regarded as matters of more than 
private concern. Unfortunately a handle was given to the 
enemies of Trade Unionism by the continuance of outrages, 
committed in the interest of Trade Unions, which began to 
be widely advertised by the press. Isolated cases of violence 

1 It must not be supposed that the lock-out was a new invention. 
Place describes its use by the master breeches-makers at the end of the 
last century : Life of Francis Place, by Professor Graham Wallas (1918). 

* Report of Conference of Trade Delegates at Sheffield (June 1866), p. 22. 

8 " An Ironmaster's View of Strikes," by W. R. Hopper, Fortnightly 
Review (August i, 1865). 

The Sheffield Outrages 257 

and intimidation, restricted, as we shall hereafter see, to 
certain trades and localities, were magnified by press 
rumours into a systematic attempt on the part of the 
Trade Unions generally to obtain their ends by deliberate 
physical violence. In the general fear and disapproval the 
public failed to discriminate between the petty trade clubs 
of Sheffield and such great associations as the Amalgamated 
Engineers and Carpenters. The commercial objection to 
industrial disputes became confused with the feeling of 
abhorrence created by 'the idea of vast combinations of 
men sticking at neither violence nor murder to achieve 
their ends. The " terrorism of Trade Unions " became a 
nightmare. " On one side," says a writer who represents 
the public feeling of the time, " is arrayed the great mass 
of the talent, knowledge, virtue, and wealth of the country, 
and, on the other, a number of unscrupulous men, leading 
a half-idle life, and feeding on the contributions of their 
dupes, and on a tax levied on such of the intelligent artisans 
as are forced into their ranks, but who would be only too 
happy to throw off their thraldom and join the supporters 
of law and justice, did these but offer them adequate 
protection." 1 

The Trade Unions world seems to have been quite 
unconscious of the gathering storm. In June 1866 138 
delegates, representing all the great Unions, and a total 
membership of about 200,000, met at Sheffield to devise 
some defence against the constant use of the lock-out. The 
student of the proceedings of this conference will contrast 
with wonder the actual conduct of the Trade Union leaders 
with the denunciations to which these "few unscrupulous 
men " were at this time exposed. Nothing could be more 
worthy, even from the middle-class point of view, than the 
discussions of these representative workmen, who denounced 

1 " Measures for Putting an End to the Abuses of Trades Unions," 
by Frederic Hill, Barrister-at-Law : Paper in Sessional Proceedings of 
the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, 1867-68, 
p. 24. The popular middle-class sentiment is reflected in Charles Reade's 
novel, Put Yourself in his Place (1871). 


258 The Junta and their Allies 

with equal energy the readiness with which their impetuous 
followers came out on strike and the arbitrary lock-out o: 
the masters, and whose resolutions express their desire for 
the establishment of Councils of Conciliation and the genera 
resort to arbitration in industrial disputes. 1 Meanwhile, in 
order to meet the great federations of employers, they 
formed " The United Kingdom Alliance of Organised 
Trades," to support the members of any trade who shoulc 
find themselves " locked out " by their employers. 2 Un- 
fortunately the conference utterly failed to decide what 
constituted a " lock-out," as distinguished from a strike 
and the " Judicial Council " of the Alliance, consisting o: 
one delegate from each of the nine districts into which the 
kingdom was divided, found itself continually at issue with 
its constituents as to the disputes to be supported. This 
friction co-operated with the increasing depression of trade 
in causing the calls for funds to be very unwillingly respondec 
to ; and the Executive Committee, sitting at Sheffield, hac 
seldom any cash at its command. The Alliance lingered on 
until about the end of 1870, when the defection of its last 
important Unions brought it absolutely to an end. 3 In 

1 See, for instance, the speech of George Newton, the secretary of the 
Glasgow Trades Committee : "A great many strikes, and perhaps lock- 
outs, too, have arisen from a stubborn refusal on the part of both sides 
to look the question honestly and fairly in the face. . . . Let us examine 
ourselves and see if there be any wicked way in us that contributes to 
this unsatisfactory state of things, and if we discover that we are nol 
blameless, then we ought, first of all, to set our own house in order. . . 
Then let us examine the opposite side of the camp and see how they 
stand, and if we find that they have not done all that they ought to have 
done with a view to prevent these serious evils, let us undisguisedly anc 
in plain language point out where we consider they have erred, and by 
increasing public opinion in a healthy way against tyranny some people 
call it, but perhaps a milder word would be better against the unwise 
policy used, it will do much to repress it in future " (Conference Report, 
Sheffield, 1866). 

2 Rules adopted at Manchester Conference, 1867 (Sheffield, 1867, 

12 pp.). 

3 The Alliance was always administered by an executive elected by 
the Sheffield trades, the leading men amongst which had been active in 
its formation. The veteran secretary of the Typographical Society, 
William Dronfield, was the first general secretary. Among the trades 
represented were the South Yorkshire and Nottingham Miners, the Amal- 

Rattening 259 

1866, however, the Alliance was young and hopeful. It 
received its first blow in October of this year, when it and 
the Trade Union Conference were forgotten in the sensa- 
tion produced by the explosion of a can of gunpowder in a 
workman's house in 'New Hereford Street, Sheffield. 

This outrage was only one of a class of crimes for 
which Sheffield was already notorious. But in the state 
of public irritation against Trade Unionism, which had 
been growing during the past few years of lock-outs and 
strikes, the news served to precipitate events. On all sides 
there arose a cry for a searching investigation into Trade 
Unionism. The Trade Unions themselves joined in the 
demand. As no clue to the perpetrators of the last crime 
could be discovered by the local police, the leaders of the 
Sheffield trade clubs united with the Town Council and the 
local Employers' Association in pressing for a Government 
inquiry. The London Trades Council and the Executive 
of the Amalgamated Engineers sent a joint deputation to 
Sheffield to investigate the case. The deputation discovered 
no more than the local police had done about the perpe- 
trators of the crime, and therefore innocently reported that 
there was no evidence of Trade Union complicity ; but 
they accompanied this report by a strong condemnation of 
" the abominable practice of rattening, which is calculated 

gamated Tailors, Boilermakers, Cotton-spinners, Scottish Associated 
Carpenters, Yorkshire Glass-bottle Makers, North of England Iron- 
workers, and the trades of Wolverhampton. The minute books from 
1867 to 1870, and its printed Monthly Statement, show that the Alliance 
at first supported the men in numerous lock-outs, especially among the 
tailors,. miners, and ironworkers, but that there were constant complaints 
of unpaid levies. Dronfield informed us that the Judicial Committee and 
the Executive experienced great difficulties from the absence of any 
control over the constituent Unions, and the impossibility of accurately 
defining a lock-out. The first conference of the Alliance was held at 
Manchester from the ist to the 4th of January 1867, when fifty- three 
trades had been enrolled, numbering 59,750 members. The " Rules " 
adopted at this conference contain an interesting address by Dronfield 
upon the principles and objects of the federation. The next conference 
was at Preston in September 1867, when the membership had fallen to 
23,580, in forty-seven trades, the Boilermakers, among others, formally 
withdrawing (Minutes of Conference at Preston, Sheffield, 1867, J 6 pp.)- 

260 The Junta and their Allies 

to demoralise those who are concerned in it, and to bring 
disgrace on all trade combinations." l Public meetings of 
Trade Unionists were held throughout the country, at 
which the leaders expressed their indignation both at the 
outrage itself and at the common assumption that it was a 
usual and necessary incident of Trade Unionism. These 
meetings invariably concluded with a demand on behalf of 
the Trade Unionists to be allowed an opportunity of refuting 
the accusations of the enemies of the movement. Robert 
Applegarth saw the Home Secretary on the subject, and 
suggested a Commission of Inquiry. The appointment of 
a Royal Commission of Inquiry was officially announced in 
the Queen's Speech of February 1867. That the Govern- 
ment meant business was proved by the prompt intro- 
duction of a Bill empowering the Commission to pursue its 
investigations by exceptional means. The inquiry was to 
extend to all outrages during the past ten years, whether 
in Sheffield or elsewhere. Not only were accomplices in 
criminal acts promised an indemnity, provided that they 

1 The town of Sheffield had long been noted for the custom of "ratten- 
ing," that is, the temporary abstraction of the wheelbands or tools of a 
workman whose subscription to his club was in arrear. This had become 
the recognised method of enforcing, not merely the payment of contribu- 
tions, but also compliance with the trade regulations of the club. The 
lawless summary jurisdiction thus usurped by the Sheffield clubs easily 
passed into more serious acts of lynch law if mere rattening proved in- 
effectual. Recalcitrant workmen were terrorised by explosions of cans 
of gunpowder in the troughs of their grinding wheels, or thrown down 
their chimneys ; and in some cases these explosions caused serious injury. 
The various Grinders' Unions (saw, file, sickle, fork, and fender) enjoyed 
an unhappy notoriety for outrages of this nature, which had, from time 
to time, aroused the spasmodic indignation of the local press, notably in 
1843-4. An attempt, in 1861, to blow up a small warehouse in Acorn 
Street provoked a special outburst of public disapproval ; and the 
minutes of the London Trades Council record that already on this occasion 
the Council publicly expressed its abhorrence of such criminal violence. 
After this date there was for three or four years a diminution in the 
number of serious acts of violence committed ; but the 3^ears 1865-6 saw 
a renewal of the evil practices, especially in connection with the Saw- 
Grinders' Union. The explosion in New Hereford Street in October 
1866 was afterwards proved to have been instigated by this Union in 
order to terrorise a certain Thomas 'Fernehough, who had twice deserted 
the society, and was at the time working for a firm against whom the 
saw-handle makers, as well as the saw-grinders, had struck. 

Trade Union Funds 261 

gave evidence, but the same privilege was extended to the 
actual perpetrators of the crimes. The investigation, more- 
over, was not restricted to the supposed criminal practices 
of particular trade clubs, but was to embrace the whole 
subject of Trade Unionism and its effects. 

The Trade Union movement thus found itself for the 
third time at the bar of a Parliamentary inquiry at a moment 
when public opinion, as well as the enmity of employers, 
had been strongly excited against it. At the very height 
of this crisis, which had been brought about by the violence 
of some of the old-fashioned Unions, the new Amalgamated 
Societies themselves received a serious check from a decision 
of the Court of Queen's Bench. 

The formation of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, 
with its large accumulated funds, had renewed the anxiety 
of the Trade Union officials as to the extent to which a 
trade society enjoyed the protection of the law. Although 
the Act of 1825 had made trade societies, as such, no longer 
unlawful, nothing had been done to give them any legal 
status, or to enable them to take proceedings as corporate 
entities. But in 1855 a " Metropolitan Trades Committee " 
succeeded in getting a clause intended to relate to Trade 
Unions inserted in the Friendly Societies Act of that year. 
By the 44th section of this Act it was provided that a 
society established for any purpose not illegal might, by 
depositing its rules with the Registrar of Friendly Societies, 
enjoy the privilege of having disputes among its own mem- 
bers summarily dealt with by the magistrates. Under this 
provision several of the larger societies had deposited their 
rules, believing, with the concurrence of the Registrar, that 
this secured to them the power to proceed summarily 
against any member who should, in his capacity of secretary 
or treasurer, detain or make away with the society's funds. 1 
So thoroughly has the legality of their position been accepted 

1 Among other societies, the Amalgamated Engineers and Carpenters 
and the national Unions of Boilermakers and Ironfounders appear to have 
deposited their rules. 

262 The Junta and their Allies 

by all concerned, that on the establishment by Gladstone 
of the Post Office Savings Banks in 1861, he had, at the 
request of the Trade Union leaders, expressly conceded to 
the Unions, equally with the Friendly Societies, the privilege 
of making use of the new banks. 

This feeling of security was, in 1867, completely shattered. 
The Boilermakers 1 Society had occasion to proceed against 
the treasurer of their Bradford branch for wrongfully with- 
holding the sum of 24 ; but the magistrates, to .the general 
surprise of all concerned, held that the society could not 
proceed under the Friendly Societies Act, being, as a Trade 
Union, outside the scope of that measure. The case was 
thereupon carried to the Court of Queen's Bench, where 
four judges, headed by the Lord Chief Justice, confirmed 
the decision, giving the additional reason that. the objects 
of the Union, if not, since 1825, actually criminal, were yet 
so far in restraint of trade as to render the society an illegal 
association. Thus the officers of the great national Trade 
Unions found their societies deprived of the legal status 
which they imagined they had acquired, and saw them- 
selves once more destitute of any legal protection for their 
accumulated funds. 

The grounds of the decision went a great deal further 
than the decision itself. As was pointed out to the work- 
men by Frederic Harrison, " the judgement lays down not 
merely that certain societies have failed to bring themselves 
within the letter of a certain Act, but that Trade Unions, 
of whatever sort, are in their nature contrary to public 
policy, and that their object in itself will vitiate every 
association and every transaction into which it enters. . . . 
In a word, Unionism becomes (if not according to the 
suggestion of the learned judge criminal) at any rate 
something like betting and gambling, public nuisances and 
immoral considerations things condemned and suppressed 
by the law." * 

Trade Unionism was now at bay, assailed on both sides. 

1 Beehive, January 26, 1867. 

Organisation of the Defence 263 

It was easy to foresee that the employers and their allies 
would make a determined attempt to use the Royal Com- 
mission and the Sheffield outrages to 'suppress Trade 
Unionism by the criminal law. On the other hand, the 
hard-earned accumulations of the larger societies, by this 
tune amounting to an aggregate of over a quarter of a million 
sterling, were at the mercy of their whole army of branch 
secretaries and treasurers, any one of whom might embezzle 
the funds with impunity. ^ 

The crisis was too serious to be dealt with by the 
excited delegate meetings of the London Trades Council. 
For over four years we hear of only occasional and purely 
formal meetings of this body. Immediately on the publi- 
cation of the decision of the judges in January 1867 
Applegarth convened what was called a " Conference of 
Amalgamated Trades/' but what consisted in reality of 
weekly private meetings of the five leaders and a few other 
friends. From 1867 to 1871 this " conference " acted as 
the effective cabinet of the Trade Union Movement. Its 
private minute-book, kept by Applegarth, reveals to the 
student the whole political life of the Trade Union world. 

The first action of the Junta was to call to their councils 
those middle-class allies upon whose assistance and advice 
they had learned to rely. We have already noticed the 
adhesion of the " Christian Socialists " to the Amalgamated 
Engineers in 1852, and the intervention of the Positivists in 
the Building Trades disputes of 1859-61. Frederic Harrison 
and E. S. Beesly were now rendering specially valuable 
services as the apologists for Trade Unionism in the public 
press. " Tom Hughes " was in Parliament, almost the only 
spokesman of the men's whole claim. Henry Crompton 
was bringing his acute judgement and his detailed experience 
of the actual working of the law to bear upon the dangers 
which beset the Unions in the Courts of Justice. Apple- 
garth's minutes show how frequently all four were ready to 
spend hours in private conference at the Engineers' office 
in Stamford Street, and how unreservedly they, in this 

264 The Junta and their Allies 

crisis, placed their professional skill at the disposal of the 
Trade Union leaders. It would be difficult to exaggerate 
the zeal and patient devotion of these friends of Trade 
Unionism, or the service which they rendered to the cause 
in its hour of trial. 1 

It is obvious from the private transactions of the con- 
ference that the main object of the Junta was to gain for 
Trade Unionism that legal status which was necessary alike 
to the security of the funds and to the recognition of the 
Trade Union organisation as a constituent part of the State. 
But the first thing to be done was to defeat the employers 
in their endeavour to use the Royal Commission as an 
instrument for suppressing Trade Unionism by direct penal 
enactment. The Junta had therefore not only to dissociate 
themselves from the ignorant turbulence of the old-fashioned 
Unions, but also to prove that the bulk of their own members 
were enlightened and respectable. It was, moreover, of the 
utmost importance to persuade the public that the Junta 
and their friends, not the strike-jobbers or the outrage- 
mongers, were the authorised and typical representatives of 
the Trade Union Movement. All this it was necessary to 
bring out in the inquiry by the Royal Commission before 
which Trade Unionism was presently to stand on its defence. 
The composition of the Commission was accordingly a matter 
of the greatest concern for the Junta. The Government 
had resolved to select, as Commissioners, not representa- 
tives of each view, but persons presumably impartial, with 
Sir William Erie, who had lately retired from the Lord 
Chief Justiceship of the Common Pleas, as their chairman. 
In this arrangement representatives of the employers were 
to be excluded ; and the appointment of working men was 
not dreamed of. The Commission was to be made up 

1 Along with these, in helping and advising the Trade Unions at this 
time, were Vernon Lushington, Godfrey Lushington (afterwards Per- 
manent Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department), J. M. 
Ludlow (afterwards Registrar of Friendly Societies), Neate (formerly 
Professor of Political Economy and then M.P. for Oxford), Sir T. Powell 
Buxton, M.P., and A. J. Mundella. 

The Royal Commission 265 

chiefly from the ranks of high officials, with four members 
from the two Houses of Parliament, and the chairman of 
a great industrial undertaking. The active part which 
Thomas Hughes had taken in the debates secured him a 
seat on the Commission, though he felt that single-handed 
he could do little for his friends. All possible pressure 
was accordingly brought to bear on the Government with 
a view to the appointment of a Trade Unionist member ; 
but the idea of a working-man Royal Commissioner was 
inconsistent with official traditions. The utmost that could 
be obtained was that the workmen and the employers 
should each suggest a special representative to be added. 
For the workmen a wise and extremely fortunate choice 
was made in the person of Frederic Harrison, the Junta 
obtaining also permission for representative Trade Unionists 
to be present during the examination of the witnesses. 1 

The actual conduct of the Trade Unionist case was under- 
taken by Harrison and Hughes, in consultation with Apple- 
garth, whom the Junta deputed to attend the sittings on 
their behalf. The ground of defence was chosen with con- 
siderable shrewdness. The policy of the Junta and their 
allies was to focus the attention of the Commissioners upon 
the great trade friendly societies in contradistinction to the 
innumerable little local trade clubs of the old type. The 
evidence of Applegarth, who was the first witness examined, 
did much to dispel the grosser prejudices against the Unions. 
The General Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of 
Carpenters was able to show that his society, then standing 
third in financial magnitude in the Trade Union world, far 

1 The Junta did not, however, confine its efforts to action before the 
Commission. One of the taunts constantly thrown by the press at the 
Trade Union leaders was that they did not themselves know what they 
wanted. Partly as a reply to this, but also as a manifesto to consolidate 
the Unionist forces, in the autumn of 1867 a Bill was prepared by Henry 
Crompton and laid before the Junta, and after considerable discussion 
adopted by them and by a delegate meeting of Trades held at the Bell 
Inn. It was introduced into the House of Commons early in the follow- 
ing session, and served as basis of the Trade Union demand at some of 
the elections in 1868, notably that of Sheffield when A. J. Mundella first 
was candidate. 

K 2 

266 The Junta and their Allies 

from fomenting strikes, was mainly occupied in the work 
of an insurance company. He was in a position to lay 
effective stress on the total absence of secrecy or coercion 
in its proceedings. He disclaimed, on behalf of its mem- 
bers, all objection to machinery, foreign imports, piecework, 
overtime, or the free employment of apprentices. The 
fundamental position upon which he entrenched his Trade 
Unionism was the maintenance, at all hazards, of the 
Standard Rate of Wages and the Standard Hours of Labour, 
to be secured by the accumulation of such a fund as would 
enable every member of the Union effectually to set a reserve- 
price on his labour. William Allan, who came up on the 
third day, followed Applegarth's lead, though with some 
reservations ; and the evidence of these two officers of what 
were primarily national friendly societies made a marked 
impression on the Commission. 

The employers were not as well served as the men. It 
is true that they succeeded, in spite of Applegarth's dis- 
claimers, in persuading the Commission that some of the 
most powerful Unions strenuously objected to piecework 
and sub-contract in any form whatsoever, and in some 
instances even to machinery. In other cases it was proved 
that attempts were made to enforce a rigid limitation of 
apprentices. Owing to the energy of the Central Associa- 
tion of Master Builders, the restrictive policy of the older 
Unions in the building trades was brought well to the 
front ; and this fact accounts, even to-day, for most of the 
current impression of Trade Unionism among the middle 
and upper classes. But the employers did not discriminate 
in their attack. Almost with one accord they objected to 
the whole principle of Trade Unionism. They reiterated 
with a curious impenetrability the old argument of the 
" individual bargain," and protested against any kind of 
industrial organisation on the part of their employees. All 
attempts by the men to claim collectively any share in 
regulating the conditions of labour were denounced as " un- 
warrantable encroachments on their rights as employers." 

The Amalgamated Societies 267 

The number of apprentices, like indeed the whole administra- 
tion of industry, was claimed as of private concern, the 
settlement of which " exclusively belongs to the employer 
himself ; a matter in which no other party, much less the 
operatives, have got anything to do." And they objected 
even more to the centrally administered national society 
with extensive reserve funds than to the isolated local clubs 
whose spasmodic outbursts they could afford to disregard. 
But the confusion between the small local bodies with 
their narrow policy of outrage and violence, and the amalga- 
mated societies with their far-reaching power and accumu- 
lated wealth, effective as it had been in alarming the public, 
proved disastrous to the employers when their case was sub- 
jected to the acute cross-examination of Frederic Harrison. 
The masters, by directing their attack mainly on the great 
Amalgamated Societies and the newly-formed local Trades 
Councils, played, in fact, directly into the hands of the 
Junta. It was easy for Allan and Applegarth to show 
that the influence of central Executive Councils and the 
formation of a public opinion among trade societies tended 
to restrain the more aggressive action of men embittered by 
a local quarrel. The combination of friendly benefits with 
trade objects was destined to be hotly attacked twenty 
years later by the more ardent spirits in the Trade Union 
world, as leading to inertia and supineness in respect of 
wages, hours, and conditions of labour. The evidence 
adduced in 1867-8, read in the light of later events, reveals 
that this tendency had already begun ; and it was im- 
possible for the Commissioners to resist the conclusion that 
they had, in the Amalgamated Engineers and Carpenters, 
types of a far less aggressive Trade Unionism than such 
survivals as the purely trade societies of the brickmakers 
or the Sheffield industries. 

Foiled in this attempt the employers fell back upon an 
indictment of the Amalgamated Unions considered as 
friendly societies. The leading actuaries were called to 
prove that neither the Amalgamated Engineers nor the 

268 The Junta and their Allies 

Amalgamated Carpenters could possibly meet their accumu- 
lating liabilities, and that these must, in a few years, in- 
evitably bring both societies to bankruptcy. The whole of 
this evidence is a striking instance of the untrustworthiness 
of. expert witnesses off their own ground. Neither Finlaison 
nor Tucker, who were called as actuaries on behalf of the 
employers, ever realised that a Trade Union, unlike a 
Friendly Society, possesses and constantly exercises an un- 
limited power to raise funds by special levies, or by in- 
creased contributions, whenever it may seem good to the 
majority of the members. But even had the actuarial in- 
dictment been completely warranted, it was a mistake in 
tactics on the part of the employers. The Commissioners 
found themselves shunted into an inquiry, rot into the 
results of Trade Unionism upon the common weal, but into 
the arithmetical soundness of the financial arrangements 
which particular groups of workmen chose to make among 

Meanwhile the primary business of the Commission, the 
investigation into the Sheffield outrages, had been remitted 
to special " examiners," whose local inquiry attracted far 
less attention than the proceedings of the main body. At 
first the investigation elicited little that was new ; but in 
June 1867 the country was startled by dramatic confessions 
on the part of Broadhead and other members of the grinders' 
trade clubs, unravelling a series of savage crimes instigated 
by them, and paid for out of Club funds. For a short time 
it looked as if all the vague accusations hurled at Trade 
Unionism at large were about to be justified ; but the 
examiners reported that four-fifths of the societies even of 
the Sheffield trades were free from outrages, and that these 
had been most prevalent from 1839 to 1861, and had since 
declined. The only other place in which the Commissioners 
thought it necessary to make inquiry into outrages was 
Manchester, where the Brickmakers' Union had committed 
many crimes, but where no complicity on the part of other 
trades was shown. It was made evident to all candid 

Lord Brassey 269 

students that these criminal acts were not chargeable to 
Trade Unionism as a whole. They represented, in fact, 
the survival among such rough and isolated trades as the 
brickmakers and grinders of the barbarous usages of a 
time when working men felt themselves outside the law, 
and oppressed by tyranny. 1 

The success with which the case of the Trade Unionists 
had been presented to the Commission was reflected in a 
changed attitude on the part of the governing class, a change 
expressly attributed to the " greater knowledge and wider 
experience " of Trade Unions which had been gained through 
the Royal Commission. " True statesmanship," declared 
the Times, " will seek neither to augment nor to reduce 
their influence, but, accepting it as a fact, will give it free 
scope for legitimate development." 2 Thus the official 
report of the Commission, from which the enemies of 
Trade Unionism had hoped so much, contained no recom- 
mendation which would have made the position of any 
single Union worse than it was before. An inconclusive 
and somewhat inconsistent document, it argued that trade 
combination could be of no real economic advantage to the 
workman, but nevertheless recommended the legalisation of 
the Unions under certain conditions. Whereas the Act 
of 1825 na d excepted from the common illegality only 
combinations in respect of wages or hours of labour, the 

1 The Broadhead disclosures created a great stir, and Professor Beesly, 
who had ventured to point out " that a trades union murder was neither 
better nor worse than any other murder," was denounced as an apologist 
for crime, and nearly lost his professorship at University College, London, 
for his sturdy defence of the principle of Trade Unionism.. See his 
pamphlet, The Sheffield Outrages and the Meeting at Exeter Hall, 1867, 
1 6 pp. ; and that by Richard Congreve, Mr. Broadhead and the Anonymous 
Press, 1867, 1 6 pp. 

8 Times leader, July 8, 1869. The occasion was the epoch-marking 
speech of Mr. (afterwards Lord) Brassey, in which, speaking as the son 
of a great contractor, he declared himself on the side of the Trade Unions, 
and asserted that, by exercising a beneficial influence on the character of 
the workmen, they tended to lower rather than to raise the cost of labour 
(Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, July 7, 1869). The speech was after- 
wards republished, with some additions, under the title of Trade Unions 
and the Cost of Labour, by T. Brassey, 1870, 64 pp. 

270 The Junta and their Allies 

Commissioners recommended that no combination should 
henceforth be liable to prosecution for restraint of trade, 
except those formed "to do acts which involved breach of 
contract/' and to refuse to work with any particular person. 
But the privilege of registration 1 , carrying with it the power 
to obtain legal protection for the society's funds, was to be 
conferred only on Unions whose rules were free from certain 
restrictive clauses, such as the limitation of apprentices or 
of the use of machinery, and the prohibition of piecework 
and sub-contract. The employers' influence on the Com- 
mission was further shown in a special refusal of the privilege 
of registration to societies whose rules authorised the support 
of the disputes of other trades. 

So far the result of the Commission was purely negative. 
No hostile legislation was even suggested. On the other 
hand, it was obvious that no Trade Union would accept 
" legalisation " on the proposed conditions. But Harrison 
and Hughes had not restricted themselves to casting out 
all dangerous proposals from the majority report. Their 
minority report, which was signed also by the Earl of 
Lichfield, exposed in terse paragraphs the futility of the 
suggestions made by the majority, and laid down in general 
terms the principles upon which all future legislation should 
proceed. It advocated the removal of all special legislation 
relating to labour contracts, on the principle, first, that no 
act should be illegal if committed by a workman unless it 
was equally illegal if committed by any other person ; and 
secondly, that no act by a combination of men should be 
regarded as criminal if it would not have been criminal in 
a single person. To this was appended a detailed state- 
ment, drafted by Frederic Harrison, in which the character 
and objects of Trade Unionism, as revealed in the voluminous 
evidence taken by the Commission, were explained and de- 
fended with consummate skill. What was perhaps of even 
greater service to the Trade Union world was a precise and 
detailed exposition of the various amendments required to 
bring the law into accordance with the general principles 

The Dangers of the Law 271 

referred to. We have here a striking instance of the advan- 
tage to a Labour Movement of expert professional advice. 
The Junta had been demanding the complete legalisation of 
their Unions in the same manner as ordinary Friendly 
Societies. They had failed to realise that such a legalisation 
would have exposed the Amalgamated Society of Engineers 
to be sued by one of its members who might be excluded 
for " blacklegging," or otherwise working contrary to the 
interests of the trade. The whole efficacy, from a Trade 
Union point of view, of the amalgamation of trade and 
friendly benefits would have been destroyed. The bare 
legalisation would have brought the Trades Unions under the 
general law, and subjected them to constant and harassing 
interference by Courts of Justice. They had grown up 
in despite of the law and the lawyers ; which as regards 
the spirit of the one and the prejudices of the other were, 
and still are, alien and hostile to the purposes and collective 
action of the Trades Societies. The danger of any member 
having power to take legal proceedings, to worry them by 
litigation and cripple them by legal expenses, or to bring a 
society within the scope of the insolvency and bankruptcy 
law, became very apparent. The Junta easily realised, when 
their advisers explained the position, that mere legalisation 
would place the most formidable weapon in the hands of 
unscrupulous employers. To avoid this difficulty Harrison 
proposed the ingenious plan of bringing the Trade Union 
under the Friendly Societies Acts, so far as regards the 
protection of its funds against theft or fraud, whilst re- 
taining to the full the exceptional legal privilege of being 
incapable of being sued or otherwise proceeded against as a 
corporate entity. Had a Trade Union official been selected 
as the sole representative of the Unions on the Commission, 
such detailed and ingenious amendments of the law would 
not have been devised and made part of an authoritative 
official report. The complete charter of Trade Union liberty, 
which Harrison and his friends had elaborated, became for 
seven years the political programme of the Trade Unionists. 

272 The Junta and their Allies 

And it is a part of the curious irony of English party politics 
that whilst the formation of this programme, and the 
agitation by which it was pressed on successive Parliaments, 
were both of them exclusively the work of a group of Radicals 
it was, as we shall see, a Conservative Cabinet which eventu- 
ally passed it into law. 1 

The effective though informal leadership of the move- 
ment which the Junta had assumed during the sittings of 
the Royal Commission had not gone entirely unquestioned. 
Those who are interested in the cross-currents of personal 
intrigues and jealousies which detract from the force of 
popular movements can read in the pages of the Beehive 
full accounts of the machinations of George Potter. The 
Beehive summoned a Trade Union Conference at St. Martin's 
Hall in March 1867, which was attended by over one 
hundred delegates from provincial societies, Trades Councils, 
and the minor London clubs. 2 The Junta, perhaps rather 
unwisely, refused to have anything to do with a meeting 
held under Potter's auspices. But many of their provincial 
allies came up without any suspicion of the sectional char- 
acter of the conference, and found themselves in the 
anomalous position of countenancing what was really an 
attempt to seduce the London Trades from their allegiance 

1 The Sheffield Outrages and the Royal Commission produced a large 
crop of literature, most of which is of little value. The Commission 
itself presented no fewer than eleven reports, with voluminous evidence 
and appendices. The Examiners appointed to investigate the outrages 
at Sheffield and Manchester presented separate reports, which were laid 
before Parliament. The mass of detailed information about strikes and 
other proceedings of Trade Societies contained in these reports has been 
the main source of all subsequent writings on the subject. The Trade 
Unions of England, by the Comte de Paris, 1869, 246 pp., and The Trade 
Unions, by Robert Somers (Edinburgh, 1876, 232 pp.), are, for instance, 
little better than summaries, the former friendly, the latter unfriendly, 
of the evidence before the Commission. The chapters relating to Trade 
Unionism in W. T. Thornton's work On Labour, 1870, which made so 
permanent an impression on the economic world, are entirely based upon 
the same testimony. Among other publications may be mentioned Trades 
Unions Defended, by W. R. Callender (Manchester, 1870, 16 pp.) ; and 
Measures for Putting an End to the Abuses of Trades Unions, by Frederic 
Hill, 1868, 1 6 pp. 

8 Report of the Trades Conference, 1867, 32 pp. 

Divided Counsels 273 

to the Junta and the London Trades Council. The Confer- 
ence sat for four days, and made, owing to Potter's energy, no 
little stir. A committee was appointed to conduct the Trade 
Union case before the Commission, and Conolly, the President 
of the Operative Stonemasons, was deputed to attend the 
sittings. But although special prominence was given by 
the Beehive to all the proceedings of this committee, we 
have failed to discover with what it actually concerned itself. 
An indiscreet speech by Conolly quickly led to his exclusion 
from the sittings of the Commission ; and the management 
of the Trade Union case remained in the hands of Applegarth 
and the Junta. 

Apart, however, from jealousy and personal intrigue, 
there was some genuine opposition to the policy of the Junta. 
The great mass of Trade Unionists were not yet converted 
to the necessity of obtaining for their societies a recognised 
legal status. There were even many experienced officials, 
especially in the provincial organisations of the older type, 
who deprecated the action that was being taken by the 
London leaders, on the express ground that they objected 
to legalisation. " The less working men have to do with 
the law in any shape the better," was the constant note of 
the old Unionists. This view found abundant expression 
at the Congresses convened in 1868 by the Manchester 
Trades Council, and in 1869 by that of Birmingham. But 
in spite of the absence of the Junta from the Manchester 
Congress, their friend, John Kane, of the North of England 
Ironworkers' Association, succeeded in inducing the dele- 
gates to pass a resolution expressing full confidence in the 
policy and action of the Conference of Amalgamated Trades. 1 
And at the Congress of 1869, Odger and Howell, as repre- 
sentatives of the Junta, managed to get adopted a series 
of resolutions embodying Frederic Harrison's proposals. 2 ^ 

Meanwhile a change had come over the political situa- 
tion. At the outset of the crisis Frederic Harrison had 
urged upon the Trade Union world the necessity of turning 

1 Beehive, June 13, 1868. 8 Ibid., August 28, 1869. 

274 The Junta and their Allies 

^to the polling booth for redress. " Nothing," he writes in 
January, 1867, " will force the governing classes to re- 
cognise [the workmen's] claims and judge them fairly, until 
they find them wresting into their own hands real political 
power. Unionists who, till now, have been content with 
their Unions, and have shrunk from political action, may 
see the pass to which this abstinence from political move- 
ments has brought them." x Within a few months of this 
advice the Reform Bill of 1867 had enfranchised the work- 
ing man in the boroughs. The Trade Union leaders were not 
slow to use the advantage thus given to them. The Junta, 
under the convenient cloak of the Conference of Amalga- 
mated Trades, issued, in July, 1868, a circular urging upon 
Trade Unionists the importance of registering their names 
as electors, and of pressing on every candidate the question 
in which they were primarily interested. The Trades 
Councils throughout the country followed suit ; and we 
find the Junta's electoral tactics adopted even by societies 
which were traditionally opposed to all political action. 
The Central Committee of the Stonemasons, for instance, 
strongly urged their members to vote at the ensuing 
election only for candidates who would support Trade 
Union demands. 2 

By the beginning of 1869 Frederic Harrison had drafted 
a comprehensive Bill, embodying all the legislative pro- 
posals of his minority report. This was introduced by 
Mundella and Hughes, and although its provisions were 
received with denunciations by the employers, 3 it gained 
some support among the newly elected members, and was 
strongly backed up outside the House. The Liberal Govern- 
ment of that day, and nearly all the members of the House 
of Commons, were still covertly hostile to the very principles 

1 Beehive, January 26, 1867. 

z Fortnightly Circular, June 1868. 

3 See, for instance, Some opinions on Trade Unions and the Bill of 
1869, by Edmund Potter, M.P., 1869, 45 pp.; also the Observations upon 
the Law of Combinations and Trades Unions, and upon the Trades Unions 
Bill, by a Barrister, 1869, 64 pp. 

Provisional Protection 275 

of Trade Unionism, and every attempt was made to burke 
the measure. 1 But the Junta were determined to make felt 
their new political power. From every part of the country 
pressure Was put upon members of Parliament. A great 
demonstration of workmen was held at Exeter Hall, at 
which Mundella and Hughes declared their intention of 
forcing the House and the Ministry to vote upon the hated 
measure. Finding evasion no longer possible, the Govern- 
ment abandoned its attitude of hostility and agreed to a 
formal second reading, upon the understanding that the 
Cabinet would next year bring in a Bill of its own. A 
provisional measure giving temporary protection to Trade 
Union funds was accordingly hurried through Parliament 
at the end of the session ' pending the introduction of a 
complete Bill. 2 The Junta had gained the first victory of 
their political campaign. 

1 In his Letters to the Working Classes, 1870, Professor Beesly gives a 
graphic account of the shuffling of the Government, and advises political 
action. The annual report of the General Union of House Painters (the 
"Manchester Alliance") for 1871 shows how eagerly the advice was 
received : " Away with the cry of no politics in our Unions ; this foolish 
neutrality has left us without power or influence." See also, for the 
whole episode, Robert Applegarth, by A. W. Humphrey, 1912, pp. 138-170 ; 
Labour Legislation, Labour Movements and Labour Leaders, by G. Howell, 
1902, pp. 156-172. 

* 32 and 33 Vic. c. 61 (1869). This provisional measure was bitterly 
opposed in the House of Lords by Earl Cairns, who argued that its uni- 
versal protection of the funds of all Unions alike, without requiring the 
abandonment of their objectionable rules, was in direct opposition to the 
majority report of the Royal Commission. No such surrender to the 
Trade Unions was, in his opinion, necessary, as their funds had, in the 
previous year, been incidentally protected by an " Act to amend the law 
relating to larceny and embezzlement" (31 and 32 Vic. c. 116), passed 
at the instance of Russell Gurney, the Recorder of London. This act 
had no reference to Trade Unions as such, but it enabled members of a 
co-partnership to be convicted for stealing or embezzling the funds of 
their co-partnership. Its possible application to defaulting Trade Union 
officials was perceived by Messrs. Shaen, Roscoe & Co., who have for three 
generations acted as solicitors of the leading Unions. At their instance 
a case was submitted to the Attorney-General of the time (Sir John 
Karslake), who advised that a Trade Union could now prosecute in its 
character of a partnership. Criminal proceedings were accordingly taken 
by the Operative Bricklayers' Society against a defaulting officer who had 
set the Executive at defiance, with the result that the prisoner was, in 
December 1868, sentenced to six months' hard labour. This successful 

276 The Junta and their Allies 

The next session found the Government reluctant to 
fulfil its promise in the matter. But the Trade Unionists 
were not disposed to let the question sleep, and after much 
pressure Henry Bruce (afterwards Lord Aberdare), who was 
then Home Secretary, produced, in 1871, a Bill which was 
eagerly scanned by the Trade Union world. The Govern- 
ment proposed to concede all the points on which it had 
been specially pressed by the Junta. No Trade Union, 
however wide its objects, was henceforth to be illegal merely 
because it was " in restraint of trade." Every Union was 
to be entitled to be registered, if its rules were not expressly 
in contravention of the criminal law. And, finally, the 
registration which gave the Unions complete protection for 
their funds was so devised as to leave untouched their 
internal organisation and arrangements, and to prevent 
their being sued or proceeded against in a court of law. 

The employers vehemently attacked the Government 
for conceding, as they said, practically all the Trade Union 
demands. 1 But from the men's point of view this " complete 
charter legalising Unions " had a serious drawback. The 
Bill, as was complained, " while repealing the Combination 
Laws, substituted another penal law against workmen " 
as such. A lengthy clause provided that any violent 
threat or molestation for the purpose of coercing either 
employers or employed should be severely punished. All 
the terms of the old Combination Laws, " molest," " ob- 
struct," " threaten," " intimidate," and so forth, were used 

prosecution was widely advertised throughout the Trade Union world, 
and was frequently quoted as showing that no further legislation was 
needed. But, as was forcibly pointed out by Frederic Harrison and other 
advisers of the Junta, Russell Gurney's Act, though it enabled Trade 
Unions to put defaulting officials in prison, gave them no power to recover 
the sums due, or to take any civil proceedings whatever, and did not 
remove the illegality of any combinations of workmen " in restraint of 
trade." See Harrison's article, " The Trades Union Bill," in Fortnightly 
Review, July i, 1869, and the leaflet published by the Amalgamated 
Society of Engineers, on Russell Gurney's Act, December, 1868. 

1 See, for instance, the report of the Leeds meeting of the Master 
Builders' Association to object to the Bill, Beehive, March n, 1871. 

Picketing 277 

without any definition or limitation, and picketing, more- 
over, was expressly included in molestation or obstruction 
by a comprehensive prohibition of " persistently following " 
any person, or "watching or besetting " the premises in 
which he was, or the approach to such premises.- The Act 
of 1859, which had expressly legalised peaceful persuasion 
to join legal combinations, was repealed. 1 It seemed only 
too probable that the Government measure would make it 
a criminal offence for two Trade Unionists to stand quietly 
in the street opposite the works of an employer against 
whom they had struck, in order to communicate peacefully 
the fact of the strike to any workmen who might be ignorant 
of it. 

It does not appear that Bruce's fiercely resented " Third 

1 A short Act had been passed in 1859 (22 Vic. c. 34) which excluded 
from the definition of " molestation " or " obstruction " the mere agree- 
ment to obtain an alteration of wages or hours, and also the peaceful 
persuasion of others without threat or intimidation to cease or abstain 
from work in order to obtain the wages or hours aimed at. The Act 
was passed without discussion or comment, probably with reference to 
some recent judicial decisions, but its actual origin is not clear. The 
Stonemasons' Society refused to have anything to do with it, and re- 
ferred sneeringly to its promoters as busybodies. Alexander Macdonald 
alluded to it in his speech on the Employers and Workmen Bill on June 28, 
1875 (Hansard, vol. 225, pp. 66-7), as having been enacted at the instance 
of himself and others in order to permit men to persuade others to join 
combinations, and that it had had a most beneficial effect. An obscure 
pamphlet, entitled Letters to the Trades Unionists and the Working Classes, 
by Charles Sturgeon, 1868, 8 pp., gives the only account of its origin that 
we have seen. " Some of the judges had decided that the liberty to 
combine was only during the period he was not in the employ of any 
master (i.e. while on tramp). So obvious a misreading, under which the 
working men were getting imprisoned, while their masters combined at 
their pleasure, created numerous petitions for relief, which lay as usual on 
the table ; however, the Executive of the National Association of United 
Trades assembled in my rooms in Abingdon Street, and we drew a little 
Bill of nine lines in length to explain to the judges how they had failed 
to explain the views of the legislator. ... I introduced our friends to 
the late Henry Drummond, Thomas Buncombe, and Joseph Hume, two 
Radicals and an honest Tory, and, strange to say, they worked well 
together when in pursuit of justice. After fighting hard against the 
great Liberal Party for four or five years, we passed our little Bill (22 
Vic. c. 34), to the great joy of the working classes and chagrin of the 
Manchester Radicals." But the decision of the R. v. Druitt and 
R. v. Bailey in 1867 showed that it did not serve to protect pickets from 

278 The Junta and their Allies 

Clause " was intended to effect any alteration in the law. 
Its comprehensive prohibition of violence, threats, intimida- 
tion, molestation, and obstruction did no more than sum. 
up and codify the various judicial decisions of past years 
under which the Trade Unionists had suffered. But the 
law had hitherto been obscure and conflicting ; both the 
statutes and the judicial decisions had proceeded largely 
from a presumption against the very existence of Trade 
Unionism which was now passing away ; and the workmen 
and their advisers not unreasonably feared the consequences 
of an explicit re-enactment of provisions which practically 
made criminal all the usual methods of trade combination. 
A recent decision had brought the danger home to the minds 
of the Trade Union leaders and their legal friends. In 
July 1867 a great strike had broken out among the London 
tailors, in which the masters' shops had been carefully 
" picketed." * Druitt, Shorrocks, and other officers of the 

1 Henry Crompton gives the following account of the practice of 
picketing : " Picketing is generally much misunderstood. It occurs in 
a strike when war has begun. The struggle, of course, consists in the 
employer trying to get fresh men, and the men on strike trying to prevent 
this. They naturally do their best to induce all others to join them. 
Very often the country is scoured by the employers, and men brought 
long distances who never would have come if they had known there was 
a strike. Men do not wish to undersell their fellows. A man is posted 
as a picket, to give information of the grievances complained of, and to 
urge the fresh comers not to defeat the strike that is going on. 

" Not only is this justifiable, but it is far better that this should be 
legal and practised in full publicity than that it should be illegal and done 
secretly, for, if done secretly, then bad practices are sure to arise. No 
doubt it is done with a view to coerce the employers, just as the lock-out 
is with a view to coerce the employed. 

" Picketing has other uses and effects. It enables those on strike to 
know whether the employers are getting men, and what probability there 
is of the strike being successful, to check any fraudulent claims for strike 
pay. Besides this, the publicity which the system of picketing gives 
does, doubtless, exercise a considerable influence upon men's conduct. 
Those on strike naturally regard any one acting contrary to the general 
interests of the trade with disfavour, just as an unpatriotic man is con- 
demned by those imbued with a higher sense of national duty. Picketing 
is justified on these grounds by the workmen, but all physical molesta- 
tion or intimidation is condemned. The workmen have never urged thai 
such proceedings should not be repressed by penal law." (See The Labout 
Law Commission, by Henry Crompton, adopted and published by the 
Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress.) 

The Criminal Law 279 

Union were thereupon indicted, not for personal violence 
or actual molestation, but for the vague crime of conspiracy. 
The Judge (Baron, afterwards Lord, Bramwell) held that 
pickets, if acting in combination, were guilty of " molesta- 
tion " if they gave "annoyance only by black looks, or even 
by their presence in large numbers, without any acts or 
gestures of violence, and that if two or more persons com- 
bined to do anything unpleasant and annoying to another 
person they were guilty of a common law offence. The 
Tailors' officers and committeemen were found guilty merely 
of organising peaceful picketing, and it became evident 
that, if the elastic law of conspiracy could thus be brought 
to bear on Trade Union disputes, practically every incident 
of strike management might become a crime. 1 Nor did 
Druitt's case stand alone. Within the memory of the Junta 
mien had been sent to prison for the simple act of striking, 
or even for a simple agreement to strike. 2 Indeed, merely 
giving notice of a projected strike, even in the most court- 
eous and peaceful manner, had frequently been held to be 
an act of intimidation punishable as a crime. 3 In 1851 the 
posting up of placards announcing a strike was held to be 
intimidation of the employers. 4 The Government Bill, far 
from accepting Frederic Harrison's proposed repeal of all 
criminal legislation specially applying to workmen, left these 
judicial decisions untouched, and, by re-enacting them in 

1 Baron Bramwell's view of the law excited much animadversion even 
among lawyers. See Stephen's History of the Criminal Law, vol. iii. 
pp. 221-2. R. v. Druitt is reported in 10 Cox, 600. 

2 R. v. Hewitt, 5 Cox, 162 (1851). Compare also the observations 
of Mr. Justice Hannam as to the mere act of striking being in itself 
sometimes criminal, in Farrer v. Close, 4 L.R.Q.B. 612 (1869). 

3 R. v. Hewitt, 5 Cox, C.C. 163 (1851). 

4 See Walsby v. Anley, 30 L.J.M.C. 121 (1861) ; Skinner v. Kitch, 
10 Cox, 493 (1867) ; O'Neil v. Kruger, 4 Best and Smith, 389 (1863) ; 
Wood v. Bowron, 2 Law Report, Q.B. 21 (1866) ; R. v. Rowlands, 5 Cox, 
C.C. 493 (1851). 

Compare on the whole subject the Appendix to our Industrial 
Democracy, 1897; The Law of Criminal Conspiracies and Agreements, by 
R. S. (afterwards Mr. Justice) Wright (1873); Sir William Erie's Law 
Relating to Trade Unions (1873) ; and Stephen's History of the Criminal 
Law, vol. iii. chap. xxx. 

280 The Junta and their Allies 

a codified form, proposed even to make their operation more 
uniform and effectual. 

There was, accordingly, some ground for the assertion 
of the Trade Unionists that the Government was with- 
drawing with one hand what it was giving with the other. 
It seemed of little use to declare the existence of trade 
societies to be legal if the criminal law was so stretched as 
to include the ordinary peaceful methods by which these 
societies attained their ends. Above all, the Trade Union- 
ists angrily resented the idea that any act should be made 
criminal if done by them, or in furtherance of their Unions, 
that was not equally a crime if committed by any other 
person, or in pursuance of the objects of any other kind 
of association. 

A storm of indignation arose in the Trade Union world. 
The Junta sat in anxious consultation with their legal 
advisers, who all counselled the utmost resistance to this 
most dangerous re-enactment of the . law. A delegate 
meeting of the London trades was summoned to protest 
against the criminal clauses of Bruce's Bill. But it was 
necessary to attack the House of Commons from a wider 
area than the Metropolis. With this view the Junta deter- 
mined to follow the example set by the Manchester and 
Birmingham Trades Councils in 1868 and 1869 by calling 
together a national Trade Union Congress. 1 

1 Whilst the constant meetings of the Junta, the informal cabinet of 
the movement, grew out of the great Amalgamated Societies, the Trades 
Union Congress, or " Parliament of Labour," took its rise in the Trades 
Councils. We have already described the special Conference held in 
London in 1864, on the Master and Servant Law, which was convened by 
the Glasgow Trades Council, and its successor, summoned by the Sheffield 
Trades Council in 1867 to concert measures of defence against lock-outs. 
But the credit of initiating the idea of an Annual Conference to deal with 
all subjects of interest to the Trade Union world belongs to the Manchester 
and Salford Trades Council, who issued in April 1868 a circular (for- 
tunately preserved in the Ironworkers' Journal for May 1868, and printed 
at the end of this volume) convening a Congress to be held in Manchester 
during Whit- week, 1868. This Congress was attended by thirty-four 
delegates, who claimed to represent about 118,000 Trade Unionists. The 
place of meeting of the next Congress was fixed at Birmingham, and the 
delegates were in due course convened by the Birmingham Trades Council. 

The Trades Union Congress 281 

The meeting of the Congress was fixed for March 1871, 
by which time it was rightly calculated that the obnoxious 
Bill would be actually under discussion in the House of 
Commons. The delegates spent most of their time in 
denouncing the criminal clauses of the Bill, and came 
very near to opposing the whole measure. But it was 
ultimately agreed to accept the legalising part of the Bill, 
whilst using every effort to throw out the Third Section. 
A deputation was sent to the Home Secretary. Protest 
after protest was despatched to the legislators, and the 
Congress adjourned at half -past four each day, in order, 
as it was expressly declared, that delegates might " devote 
the evening to waiting upon Members of Parliament." 
But neither the Government nor the House of Commons 
was disposed to show any favour to Trade Union action 
in restraint of that " free competition " and individual 
bargaining which had so long been the creed of the employers. 
The utmost concession that could be obtained was that the 

This second Congress, which met in August 1869, included forty-eight 
delegates from forty separate societies, having, it was said, 250,000 mem- 
bers. But although these general congresses were attended by some of 
the most prominent of the provincial Trade Unionists, they were rather 
frowned on by the London Junta. The thirty-four delegates at the Man- 
chester Congress included indeed hardly any Metropolitan delegates other 
than George Potter. Half a dozen representatives from London societies 
went to the Birmingham Congress, including Odger and George Howell, 
but when a Parliamentary Committee was appointed Odger refused to 
serve upon it, regarding it apparently as an unnecessary rival of the 
Conference of Amalgamated Trades. The next Congress was appointed 
for London in 1870, but the London leaders took no steps to convene it, 
until it became necessary, as we have seen, to call up all forces to oppose 
the projected legislation of 1871. The London Congress of March 1871 
was, in fact, the first in which the real leaders of the movement took 
part, and the Parliamentary Committee which it appointed, acting at 
first in conjunction with Applegarth's Conference, naturally took the 
place of this on its dissolution. The 1872 Congress at Nottingham was 
attended by seventy-seven delegates, representing 375,000 members. 
Reports of the earliest four congresses must be sought in the Beehive and 
(as regards those of Manchester, Birmingham, and Nottingham) in the 
contemporary local newspapers. From 1873 onward the Congress has 
issued an authorised report of its proceedings. A useful chronological 
record has now been published by W. J. Davis, entitled A History of the 
British Trades Union Congress, vol. i. 1910; vol. ii. 1916. 

282 The Junta and their Allies 

Bill should be divided into two, so that the law legalising 
the existence of trade societies might stand by itself, whilst 
the criminal clauses restraining their action were embodied 
in a separate " Criminal Law Amendment Bill." This illu- 
sory concession sufficed to detach from the opposition many 
of those who had at the General Election professed friend- 
ship to the Unions. In the main debate Thomas Hughes 
and A. J. Mundella stood almost alone in pressing the Trade 
Unionists' full demands ; and though a few other members 
were inclined to help to some extent, the second reading 
was agreed to without a division. The other stages were 
rapidly run through without serious opposition. In the 
House of Lords the provisions against picketing were made 
even more stringent, " watching and besetting " by a single 
individual being made as criminal as " watching and 
besetting " by a multitude. In this unsatisfactory shape 
the two Bills passed into law. 1 Trade Societies became, 
for the first time, legally recognised and fully protected 
associations; whilst, on the other hand, the legislative 
prohibition of Trade Union action was expressly reaffirmed, 
and even increased in stringency. 

In the eyes of the Trade Unions this result amounted 
to a defeat ; and the conduct of the Government caused 
the bitterest resentment. 2 The Secretaries of the Amal- 
gamated Societies, especially Allan and Applegarth, had, 
indeed, attained the object which they personally had most 
at heart. The great organisations for mutual succour, 
which had been built up by their patient sagacity, were 
now, for the first time, assured of complete legal protection. 
A number of the larger societies promptly availed them- 
selves of the Trade Union Act, by registering their rules 
in accordance with its provisions ; 3 and in September 

1 34 and 35 Vic. c. 31 (Trade Union Act), and 34 and 35 Vic. c. 32 
(Criminal Law Amendment Act). 

2 See, for instance, the article by Henry Crompton in the B&e'fiiue, 
September 2, 1871. 

8 The Operative Bricklayers' Society (London), of which Coulson was 
general secretary, stands No. i on the Register. 

The Criminal Law Amendment Act 283 

1871 the Conference of Amalgamated Trades " having," 
as its final minutes declared, " discharged the duties for 
which it was organised," formally dissolved itself. 

The wider issue which remained to be fought required 
a more representative organisation. In struggling for legal 
recognition the Junta had, as we have seen, represented 
the more enlightened of the Trade Unionists rather than 
the whole movement. But, by the Criminal Law Amend- 
ment Act, the Government had deliberately struck a blow 
against the methods of all trade societies at all periods. 
The growing strength of the organisations of the coal- 
miners and cotton-spinners, and the rapid expansion of 
Trade Unionism which marked this period of commercial 
prosperity, had for some time been tending towards the 
development of the informal meetings of the Junta into 
a more representative executive. The dissolution of the 
Conference of Amalgamated Trades left the field open ; and 
the leadership of the Trade Union Movement was assumed 
by the Parliamentary Committee which had been appointed 
at the Trades Union Congress in the previous March, and 
which included all the principal leaders of the chief 
metropolitan and provincial societies of the time. 

The agitation which was immediately begun to secure 
the repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act became 
during the next four years the most significant feature of 
the Trade Union world. Throughout all the various struggles 
of these years the Trade Union leaders kept steadily in 
view the definite aim of getting rid of a law which they 
regarded, not only as hampering their efforts for better 
conditions of employment, but also as an indignity and an 
insult to the hundreds of thousands of intelligent artisans 
whom they represented. The whole history of this agitation 
proves how completely the governing classes were out of 
touch with the recently enfranchised artisans. The legis- 
lation of 1871 was regarded by the Government and the 
House of Commons as the full and final solution, of a 
long-standing problem. " The judges, however, declared," 

284 The Junta and their Allies 

as Henry Crompton points out, " that the only effect of the 
legislation of 1871 was to make the trade object of the strike 
not illegal. A strike was perfectly legal ; but if the means 
employed were calculated to coerce the employer they were 
illegal means, and a combination to do a legal act by illegal 
means was a criminal conspiracy. In other words, a strike 
i was lawful, but anything done in pursuance of a strike was J 
1 criminal. Thus the judges tore up the remedial statute,' 
and each fresh decision went further and developed new 
dangers." 1 But Gladstone's Cabinet steadfastly refused, 
right down to its fall in 1874, even to consider the 
possibility of altering the Criminal Law Amendment Act. 
It was in vain that deputation after deputation pointed out 
that men were being sent to prison under this law for such 
acts as peacefully accosting a workman in the street. In 
1871 seven women were imprisoned in South Wales merely 
for saying " Bah " to one blackleg. Innumerable convic- 
tions took place for the use of bad language. Almost any 
action taken by Trade Unionists to induce a man not to 
accept employment at a struck shop resulted, under the 
new Act, in imprisonment with hard labour. The intoler- 
able injustice of this state of things was made more glaring 
by the freedom allowed to the employers to make all possible 
.use of " black-lists " and " character notes," by which 
obnoxious men were prevented from getting work. No 
prosecution ever took place for this form of molestation or 
obstruction. No employer was ever placed in the dock 
under the law which professedly applied to both parties. 
In short, boycotting by the employers was freely permitted ; 
boycotting by the men was put down by the police. 

The irritation caused by these petty prosecutions was, 
in December 1872, deepened into anger by the sentence * 
of twelve months' imprisonment passed upon the London 
gas-stokers. These men were found guilty of "conspiracy" 

1 Digest of the Labour Laws, signed by F. Harrison and H. Crompton, 
and issued by the Trades Union Congress Parliamentary Committees, 
September 1875. 

Trade Union Agitation 285 

to coerce or molest their employers by merely preparing 
for a simultaneous withdrawal of their labour. The vin- 
dictive sentence inflicted by Lord Justice Brett was justified 
by the governing classes on the ground of the danger to the 
community which a strike of gas-stokers might involve; 
and the Home Secretary refused to listen to any appeal on 
behalf of the men. 1 The Trade Union leaders did not fail 
to perceive that no legal distinction could, under the law 
as it then stood, be drawn between a gas-stoker and any 
other workmen. If preparing for a strike was punishable, 
under " the elastic and inexplicable law of conspiracy," by 
twelve months' imprisonment, it was obvious that the 
whole fabric of Trade Unionism might be overthrown by 
any band of employers who chose to put the law in force. 
The London Trades Council accordingly summoned a dele- 
gate meeting "to consider the critical legal position of all 
trade societies and their officers consequent upon the recent 
conviction of the London gas -stokers." Representation 
after representation was made to the Government and to 
members of Parliament ; and the movement for the repeal 
of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1871 was widened 
into a determined attempt to get rid of all penal legislation 
bearing on trade disputes. 2 

Rarely has political agitation been begun in such appar- 
ently unpromising circumstances, and carried so rapidly 
to a triumphant issue. The Liberal administration of 
these years, like the majority of both parties in the House 
of. Commons, was entirely dominated by the antagon- 
ism felt by the manufacturers to any effective collective 
bargaining on the part of the men. The representations 
of the Parliamentary Committee found no sympathy either 
with Henry Bruce or with Robert Lowe, who succeeded 
him as Home Secretary. Gladstone, as Prime Minister, 

1 They were, however, eventually released after a few months' im- 
prisonment ; see Henry Broadhurst, the Story of His Life, by himself, 1901, 
PP- 59-64 ; Labour Legislation, Labour Movements and Labour Leaders, by 
G. Howell, 1902, pp. 237-53. 

2 See letter to Beehive, January II, 1873. 

286 The Junta and their Allies 

refused in 1872 to admit that there was any necessity for 
further legislation, and utterly declined to take the matter 
up ; * and during that session the Parliamentary Committee 
were unable to find any member willing to introduce a Bill 
for the repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. 

The Trade Union leaders, however, did not relax their 
efforts. Allan, Guile, Odger, and Howell were strongly 
reinforced by the representatives of the miners, cotton- 
spinners, and ironworkers. Alexander Macdonald and John 
Kane, themselves men of remarkable ability, had behind 
them thousands of sturdy politicians in all the industrial 
centres. The agitation was fanned by the publication of 
details of the prosecutions under the new Act. Effective 
Tracts for Trade Unionists were written by Henry Crompton 
and Frederic Harrison* Congresses at Nottingham in 1872, 
at Leeds in 1873, at Sheffield in 1874 kept up the fire, 
and passed judgment on those members of Parliament who 
treated the Parliamentary Committee with contumely. As 
the time of the General Election drew near, the pressure 
on the two great political parties was increased. Lists 
of questions to candidates were prepared embodying the 
legislative claims of labour ; and it was made clear that 
no candidate would receive Trade Union support unless his 
answers were satisfactory. 

It will be a question for the historian of English politics 
whether the unexpected rout of the Liberal party at the 
election of 1874 was not due more to the active hostility 
of the Trade Unionists than to the sullen abstention of the 
Nonconformists. The time happened to be a high-water 
mark of Trade Unionism. In these years of good trade 
every society had been rapidly increasing its membership. 
The miners, the agricultural labourers, and the textile 
operatives in particular had swarmed into organisation in 
a manner which recalls the rush of 1834. The Trades 
Union Congress at Sheffield, held just before the General 
Election of 1874, claimed to represent over 1,100,000 

1 Hansard, vol. 212, p. 1132, July 15, 1872. 

Political Action 287 

organised workmen, including a quarter of a million of coal- 
miners, as many cotton operatives, and a hundred thousand 
agricultural labourers. The proceedings of this Congress 
reveal the feeling of bitter anger which had been created 
by the obtuseness to the claims of labour of the Liberal 
leaders of that day. Not content with turning a deaf ear 
to all the representatives of the workmen, they had, with 
blundering ignorance, retained as Secretary of the Liberal 
Association of the City of London the Sidney Smith who 
had, since 1851, been the principal officer of the various 
associations of employers in the engineering and iron trades. 1 
As such he had proved himself a bitter and implacable enemy 
of Trade Unionism. We may imagine what would be the 
result to-day if either political party were to face a General 
Election with Mr. Laws, the organiser of the Shipping 
Federation, as its chief of the staff. And whilst the Liberal 
party was treating the new electorate with contumely, 
the Conservative candidates were listening blandly to the 
workmen's claims, and pledging themselves to repeal the 
obnoxious law. 

Under these circumstances it is not surprising that the 
old idea of Trade Union abstention from politics gave way 
to a determined attempt at organised political action. 
Nor were the Trade Unionists content with merely pressing 
the organised political parties in the House of Commons. 
The running of independent Labour candidates against 
both parties alike was a most significant symptom of the 
new feeling in Labour politics. The Labour Representation 
League, composed mainly of prominent Trade Unionists, 
had for some years been endeavouring to secure the election 
of working men to the House of Commons ; and the 
independent candidatures of George Odger during 1869 and 
1870 had provoked considerable feeling. 2 At a bye-election 

1 This formed the subject of bitter comment in the Beehive, January 
1874, just before the General Election. 

8 The following letter, addressed to Odger by John Stuart Mill, will be 
of interest in connection with the perennial question of the expediency of 

288 The Junta and their Allies 

at Greenwich in 1873, a third candidate was run with 
working-class support against both the great parties, with 
the result that Boord, the Conservative, gained the seat. In 
what spirit this was regarded by the organised workmen 
and their trusted advisers may be judged from the following 
leading article which Professor E. S. Beesly wrote for the 
Beehive, then at the height of its influence : " The result 
of the Greenwich election is highly satisfactory. . . . The 
workman has at length come to the conclusion that the 
difference between Liberal and Tory is pretty much that 
between upper and nether millstone. The quality of the 
two is essentially the same. They are sections of the wealth- 
possessing class, and on all Parliamentary questions affecting 
the interests of labour they play into one another's hands so 
systematically and imperturbably that one would suppose 
they thought workmen never read a newspaper or hear 
a speech. . . . The last hours of the Session were marked 
by the failure of two Bills about which workmen cared 
infinitely more than about all the measures put together 
for which Mr. Gladstone takes credit since his accession 
to office I mean Mr. Harcourt's Conspiracy Bill and Mr. 
Mundella's Nine Hours Bill. As for Mr. Mundella's Bill for 
repealing the Criminal Law Amendment Act, it has never 

"independent" candidatures. It will be found in the Beehive for Feb- 
ruary 13, 1875 : 

"AVIGNON, February 19, 1871. 

" DEAR MR. ODGER, Although you have not been successful, I con- 
gratulate you on the result of the polling in South wark, as it proves that 
you have the majority of the Liberal party with you, and that you have 
called out an increased amount of political feeling in the borough. It is 
plain that the Whigs intend to monopolise political power as long as they 
can without coalescing in any degree with the Radicals. The working men 
are quite right in allowing Tories to get into the House to defeat this 
exclusive feeling of the Whigs, and may do it without sacrificing any prin- 
ciple. The working men's policy is to insist upon their own representation, 
and in default of success to permit Tories to be sent into the House until the 
Whig majority is seriously threatened, when, of course, the Whigs will be 
happy to compromise, and allow a few working men representatives in the 

" Splitting the Vote " 289 

had a chance. For the failure of all these Bills the Ministry 
must be held responsible. . . . 

"This being the case, it is simply silly for Liberal 
newspapers to mourn over the Greenwich Election as an 
unfortunate mistake. . . . There was no mistake at all at 
Greenwich. There was a ' third party ' in the field knowing 
perfectly well what it wanted, and regarding Mr. Boord 
and Mr. Angerstein with impartial hostility. I trust that 
such a third party will appear in every large town in England 
at the next General Election, even though the result should 
be a Parliament of six hundred and fifty Boords. Every- 
thing must have a beginning, and workmen have waited so 
long for justice that seven years of Tory government will 
seem a trifling addition to the sum total of their endurance 
if it is a necessary preliminary to an enforcement of their 
claims." * 

The movement for direct electoral action remained 
without official support from Trade Unions as such until 
at the 1874 Congress Broadhurst was able to report that 
the miners, ironworkers, and some other societies had 
actually voted money for Parliamentary candidatures. At 
the General Election which ensued no fewer than thirteen 
" Labour candidates " went to the poll. In most cases 
both Liberal and Conservative candidates were run against 
them, with the result that the Conservatives gained the 
seats. 2 But at Stafford and Morpeth the official Liberals 
accepted what they were powerless to prevent ; and 
Alexander Macdonald and Thomas Burt, the two leading 

1 Beehive, August 9, 1873 ; see also that of August 30. 

2 Halliday, the Secretary of the Amalgamated Association of Miners 
offered himself as Labour candidate for Merthyr Tydvil. A fortnight 
before the polling day he was indicted at Burnley for conspiracy in connec- 
tion with a local miners' strike, but nevertheless went to the poll, receiving 
the large total of 4912 votes (Beehive, January 31, 1874). Among the 
other " third candidates " were Broadhurst (Wycombe), Howell (Ayles- 
bury), Cremer (Warwick), Lucraft (Finsbury), Potter (Peterborough), 
Bradlaugh (Northampton), Kane (Middlesborough), Odger (South wark), 
Mottershead (Preston), and Walton (Stoke). See History of Labour Repre- 
sentation, by A. W. Humphrey, 1912, 


290 The Junta and their Allies 

officials of the National Union of Miners, became the first 
" Labour members " of the House of Commons. 

It is significant of the electioneering attitude of the 
Conservative leaders that, with the advent of the new 
Conservative Government, the Trade Unionists appear to 
have assumed that the Criminal Law Amendment Act would 
be instantly repealed. Great was the disappointment when it 
was announced that a Royal Commission was to be appointed 
to inquire into the operation of the whole of the so-called 
" Labour Laws/' This was regarded as nothing more than 
a device for shelving the question, and the Trade Union 
leaders refused either to become members of the Commission 
or to give evidence before it. Thomas Burt absolutely re- 
fused a seat on the Commission. It needed the most specific 
assurances by the Home Secretary that the Government 
really intended the earliest possible legislation to induce 
any working man to have anything to do with the Com- 
mission. Ultimately Alexander Macdonald, M.P., allowed 
himself to be persuaded to serve, together with Tom Hughes ; 
and George Shipton, the Secretary of the London Trades 
Council, Andrew Boa, the Secretary of the Glasgow Trades 
Council, and a prominent Birmingham Trade Unionist 
gave evidence. The investigation of the Commission was 
perfunctory, and the report inconclusive. But the Govern- 
ment were too fully alive to the new-found political power 
of the Unions to attempt to play with the question. At 
the beginning of 1875 the imprisonment of five cabinet- 
makers employed at Messrs. Jackson & Graham, a well- 
known London firm, roused considerable public feeling, 
and led to many questions in Parliament. 1 In June the 
Home Secretary, in an appreciative and conciliatory speech, 
introduced two Bills for altering respectively the civil and 
criminal law. As amended in Committee by the efforts 
of Mundella and others, these measures resulted in Acts 
which completely satisfied the Trade Union demands. The 

1 See House of Commons Returns. No. 237 of the 2nd, and No. 273 
of the 23rd of June 1875. 

The Employers and Workmen Act 291 

Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1871 was formally and 
unconditionally repealed. By the Conspiracy and Protection 
of Property Act (38 and 39 Vic. c. 86), definite and reasonable 
limits were set to the application of the law of conspiracy 
to trade disputes. The Master and Servant Act of 1867 
was replaced by an Employers and Workmen Act (38 and 
39 Vic. c. 90), a change of nomenclature which expressed 
a fundamental revolution in the law. Henceforth master 
and servant became, as employer and employee, two equal 
parties to a civil contract. Imprisonment for breach of 
engagement was abolished. The legalisation of Trade 
Unions was completed by the legal recognition of their 
methods. Peaceful picketing was expressly permitted. The 
old words " coerce " and " molest," which had, in the hands 
of prejudiced magistrates, proved such instruments of op- 
pression, were omitted from the new law, and violence and 
intimidation were dealt with as part of the general criminal 
code. No act committed by a group of workmen was hence- 
forth to be punishable unless the same act by an individual 
was itself a criminal offence. Collective bargaining, in short, 
with all its necessary accompaniments, was, after fifty years of 
legislative struggle, finally recognised by the law of the land. 1 

1 It is not surprising that this sweeping Parliamentary triumph evoked 
great enthusiasm in the Trade Union ranks. At the Trade Union Congress 
in October 1875, such ardent Radicals as Odger, Guile, and George Howell 
joined in the warmest eulogies of J. K. (afterwards Viscount) Cross, whose 
sympathetic attitude had surpassed their utmost hopes. " The best 
friends they had in Parliament," said Howell, " with one or two exceptions, 
never declared for the repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. He, 
with some friends, was under the gallery of the House of Commons when 
the measure was under discussion, and they could scarcely believe their 
ears when they heard Mr. Cross declare for the total repeal of the Act." 
And Odger paid testimony to the " immense singleness of purpose " with 
which the Home Secretary " had attended to every proposition that had 
been placed before him," and accorded them " the greatest boon ever 
given to the sons of toil." An amendment deprecating such " fulsome 
recognition of the action of the Conservative party " received only four 
votes (Report of Glasgow Congress, 1875). Some minor amendments of 
the law relating to the registration and friendly benefits of Trade Unions 
were embodied in the Trade Union Act Amendment Act of 1876 (39 and 40 
Vic. c. 22). See the Handybook of the Labour Laws, by George Howell, 
1876, and his Labour Legislation, Labour Movements and Labour Leaders, 
1902, pp. 156-72. 

292 The Junta and their Allies 

The paramount importance of the legal and Parlia- 
mentary struggle from 1867 to 1875 has compelled us to 
relegate to the next chapter all mention of striking con- 
temporary events in Trade Union history. The sustained 
efforts of this decade, too often ignored by a younger genera- 
tion of Trade Unionists, are even now referred to by the 
survivors as constituting the finest period of Trade Union 
activity. For over eight years the Unions had been sub- 
jected to the strain of a prolonged and acute crisis, during 
which their very existence was at stake. Out of this crisis 
they emerged, as we have seen, triumphantly successful, 
" liberated," to use George Howell's words, " from the last 
vestige of the criminal laws specially appertaining to 
labour/' l 

This tangible . victory was not the only result of the 
struggle. In order to gain their immediate end the Trade 
Union leaders had adopted the arguments of their opponents, 
and had been led to take up a position which, whilst it 
departed from the Trade Union traditions of the past, proved 
in the future a serious impediment to their further theoretic 
progress. To understand the intellectual attitude of the 
Junta and their friends, we must consider in some detail the 
position which they had to attack. From the very beginning 
of the century the employers had persistently asserted their 
right to make any kind of bargain with the individual 
workman, irrespective of its effect on the Standard of Life. 
They had, accordingly, adopted the principle, as against 
both the Trade Unionists and the Factory Act philanthrop- 
ists, of perfect freedom of contract and complete competi- 
tion between both workers and employers. In order to 
secure absolute freedom of competition between individuals 
it was necessary to penalise any attempt on the part of the 
workmen to regulate, by combination, the conditions of the 
bargain. But this involved, in reality, a departure from 
the principle of legal freedom of contract. One form of 
contract, that of the collective bargain, was, in effect, made 

1 Speech at Trades Union Congress, Glasgow, October 1875. 

John Bright 293 

a criminal offence, on the plea that, however beneficial it 
might seem to the workmen, it cut at the root of national 
prosperity. It will be obvious that in urging this conten- 
tion the employers were taking up an inconsistent position. 
Their pecuniary interest in complete competition outweighed, 
in fact, their faith in freedom of contract. 

Meanwhile the astute workmen who led the movement 
were gradually concentrating their forces upon the only 
position from which they could hope to be victorious. 
They had, it must be remembered, no means of imposing 
their own view upon the community. Even after 1867 
their followers formed but a small minority of the electorate, 
whilst the whole machinery of politics was in the hands of 
the middle class. Powerless to coerce or even to intimidate 
the governing classes, they could win only by persuasion. 
It was, however, hopeless to dream of converting the middle 
class to the essential principle of Trade Unionism, the com- 
pulsory maintenance of the Standard of Life. In the then 
state of Political Economy the Trade Unionists saw against 
them, on this point, the whole mass of educated opinion in 
the country. John Bright, for instance, did but express the 
common view of the progressive party of that time when he 
solemnly assured the working man that " combinations, in 
the long run, must be as injurious to himself as to the 
employer against whom he is contending.'* 1 Lord Shaftes- 
bury, the lifelong advocate of factory legislation, was 
praying that " the working people may be emancipated 
from the tightest thraldom they have ever yet endured. 
All the single despots, and all the aristocracies that ever 
were or ever will be, are as puffs of wind compared with 
these tornadoes, the Trade Unions." * The Sheffield and 
other outrages, the rumours of constant persecution of 
non-Unionists, the hand- workers' perpetual objection to 

1 In his letter to a Blackburn mill-owner, November 3, 1860. Public 
Letters of John Bright, collected and edited by H. J. Leech, 1885, p. 80. 

2 Letter to Colonel Maude, quoted by Professor Beesly in his address 
to the London Trades Council, 1869, reported in Bricklayers' Circular, 
March 1870. 


The Junta and their Allies 

machinery, the restrictions on piecework and apprentice- 
ship all these real and fancied crimes had created a 
mass of prejudice against which it was hopeless for the 
Trade Unionists to struggle. 

The Union leaders, therefore, wisely left this part of 
their case in the background. They avoided arguing 
whether Trade Unionism was, in principle, useful or detri- 
mental, right or wrong. They insisted only on the right 
of every Englishman to bargain for the sale of his labour 
in the manner he thought most conducive to his own 
interests. What they demanded was perfect freedom for a 
workman to substitute collective for individual, bargaining, 
if he imagined such a course to be for his own advantage. 
Freedom of association in matters of contract became, 
1 therefore, their rejoinder to the employers' cry of freedom 
of competition. 

It is clear that the Trade Unionists had the best of the 
argument. It was manifestly unreasonable for the em- 
ployers to insist on the principle of non-interference of the 
State in industry whenever they were pushed by the advo- 
cates of factory legislation, and at the same time to clamour 
for the assistance of the police to put down peaceful and 
voluntary combinations of their workmen. The capitalists 
were, in short, committed to the principle of laissez-faire in 
every phase of industrial life, from " Free Trade in Corn " to 
the unlimited use of labour of either sex at any age and 
under any conditions ; and what the workmen demanded 
was only the application of this principle to the wage con- 
tract. " The Trade Union question," writes, in 1869, their 
chosen representative and most powerful advocate, " is 
another and the latest example of the truth, that the sphere 
of legislation is strictly and curiously limited. After legis- 
lating about labour for centuries, each change producing 
its own evils, we have slowly come to see the truth, that we 
must cease to legislate for it at all. The public mind has 
been of late conscious of serious embarrassment, and eagerly 
expecting some legislative solution, some heaven-born dis- 

The Trade Union Case 295 

coverer to arise, with a new Parliamentary nostrum. As 
usual in such cases, it now turns out that there is no legis- 
lative solution at all ; and that the true solution requires, 
as its condition, the removal of the mischievous meddling 
of the past." 1 This doctrine " that all men may lawfully 
agree to work or not to work, to employ or not to employ, 
on any terms that they think fit," forms the whole burden 
of the speeches and petitions of the Trade Union leaders 
throughout this controversy. " We do not," say the official 
representatives of Trade Unionism in their memorial to the 
Home Secretary in April 1875, " seek to interfere with the 
free competition of the individual in the exercise of his craft 
in his own way ; but we reserve to ourselves the right 
either to work for, or to refuse to work for, an employer 
according to the circumstances of the case, just as the 
master has the right to discharge a workman, or workmen ; 
and we deny that the individual right is in any way inter- 
fered with when it is done in concert." 

The working men had, in fact, picked up the weapon of 
their opponents and left these without defence. But in so 
doing the leading Trade Unionists of the time drifted into 
a position no less inconsistent than that of the employers. 
When they contended that the Union should be as free to 
bargain as the individual, they had not the slightest inten- 
tion of permitting the individual to bargain freely if they 
could prevent him. Though Allan and Applegarth were 
able conscientiously to inform the Royal Commission that 
the members of their societies did not refuse to work with 
non-society men, they must have been perfectly aware that 
this convenient fact was only true in those places and at 
those periods in which society men were not in a suffi- 
ciently large majority to do otherwise. The trades to which 
Henry Broadhurst and George Howell belonged were notori- 
ous for the success with which the Unions had maintained 
their practice of excluding non-society men from their jobs. 

1 Fortnightly Review, July i, 1869. " The Trades Union Bill," by 
Frederic Harrison. 

296 The Junta and their A Hies 

The coal-miners of Northumberland and Durham habitually 
refused to descend the shaft in company with a non- 
Unionist. 1 

We have shown, in our Industrial Democracy, that this 
universal aspiration of Trade Unionism the enforcement 
of membership stands, in our opinion, on the same foot- 
ing as the enforcement of citizenship. But, however this 
may be, it is evident that the refusal of the Northumber- 
land miners to " ride " with non-society men is, in effect, as 
coercive on the dissentient minority as the Mines Regula- 
tion Act or an Eight Hours Bill. The insistence upon the 
Englishman's right to freedom of contract was, in fact, in 
the mouths of staunch Trade Unionists, perilously near cant ; 
and we find Frederic Harrison himself, when dealing with 
other legislation, warning them that it would be suicidal 
for working men to adopt as their own the capitalist cry of 
" non-interference." 2 The force of this caution must have 

1 William Crawford, the trusted leader of the Durham miners, and a 
steadfast opponent of the Eight Hours Bill, in a well-known letter of later 
date (of which we have had a copy), emphatically urges the complete 
ostracism of non-society men. " You should at least be consistent. In 
numberless cases you refuse to descend and ascend with non-Unionists. 
The right or wrong of such action I will not now discuss ; but what is the 
actual state of things found in many parts of the country ? While you 
refuse to descend and ascend with these men, you walk to and from the pit, 
walk in and out bye with them nay, sometimes work with them. You 
mingle with them at home over your glass of beer, in your chapels, and side 
by side you pray with them in your prayer meeting. The time has come 
when there must be plain speaking on this matter. It is no use playing at 
shuttlecock in this important portion of our social life. Either mingle 
with these men in the shaft, as you do in every other place, or let them 
be ostracised at all times and in every place. Regard them as unfit 
companions for yourselves and your sons, and unfit husbands for your 
daughters. Let them be branded, as it were, with the curse of Cain, as 
unfit to mingle in ordinary, honest, and respectable society. Until you 
make up your minds to thus completely and absolutely ostracise these 
goats of mankind, cease to complain as to any results that may arise 
from their action." Compare A Great Labour Leader [Thomas Burt], 
by Aaron Watson, 1908. 

2 See his letter on the Government Annuities Bill, 1864 : " Lastly, we 
are told of Government dictation and interference. I cannot believe men 
of sense will say this twice seriously. . . . Leave it to the political econo- 
mists to complain. . . . Let working men remember that whenever a 
measure in their interest is proposed to Parliament, or suggested in the 
country whether it be to limit excessive hours of labour, to protect 

Trade Union Inconsistency 297 

been evident to the Junta, who had had too much experience 
of the workings of modern industry not to realise the need for 
a compulsory maintenance of the Standard of Life. No 
Trade Unionist can deny that, without some method of 
enforcing the decision of the majority, effective trade com- 
bination is impossible. 

It must not be inferred from the above criticism of the 
theoretic position taken by the men who 'steered the Trade 
Union Movement through its great crisis that they were 
conscious of their inconsistency with regard to State inter- 
vention, or that they deliberately set to work to win their 
case upon false premisses. No one can study the history of 
their leadership without being impressed by their devotion, 
sagacity, and high personal worth. We must regard their 
inconsistency as a striking instance of the danger which 
besets a party formed without ^any clear idea of the social 
state at which it is aiming, sin the struggle of these years 
we watch the English Trade Unionists driven from their 
Utopian aspirations into an inconsistent opportunism, from 
which they drifted during the next generation into the crude 
"self-help" of an "aristocracy of labour^- During the 
whole of this process there was no moment at which the 
incompatibility of their Individualist and Collectivist views 
was perceived. Applegarth and Odger, for instance, saw no 
inconsistency in becoming leading officials of the " Inter- 
national " on a programme drafted by Karl Marx, and at 
the same time supporting the current Radical demand for 
a widespread peasant proprietorship. But it was inevitable 

women and children, to regulate unhealthy labour, to provide them with 
the means of health, cleanliness, or recreation, to save them from the 
exactions of unscrupulous employers it is universally met with opposi- 
tion from one quarter, that of unrestricted competition ; and opposed on 
one ground, that of absolute freedom of private enterprise. We all know 
at least, we all explain how selfish and shallow this cry is in the mouth 
of unscrupulous capitalists who resist the Truck System Bill or the Ten 
Hours Bill. Is it not suicidal in working men to raise a cry which has 
ever been, and still will be, the great resource of those who strive to set 
obstacles to their welfare ? The next time working men promote a Short 
Time Bill of any kind they will be told to stick to their principle of non- 
j interference with private capital" (Beehive, March 19, 1864). 

L 2 

298 The Junta and their Allies 

that the exclusive insistence upon the Individualist argu- 
ments, through which alone the victory of 1875 could be 
won, should impress the Individualist ideal upon the minds 
of those who stood round the leaders. Other influences, 
moreover, promoted the acceptance by the Trade Unionists 
of the economic shibboleths of the middle class. The failure 
of the crude experiments of Owen and O'Connor, the striking 
success of the policy of Free Trade, the growing participa- 
tion of working men in the Liberal politics of the time, and, 
above all, the close intimacy which many of them enjoyed 
with able and fertile thinkers of the middle class, all tended 
to create a new school of Trade Unionists. In a subsequent 
chapter we shall describe the results of this intellectual 
conversion upon the Trade Union Movement. First, how- 
ever, we must turn to the internal development of these 
years, which our description of the Parliamentary struggles 
of 1867-75 has forced us temporarily to ignore. 1 

1 From 1 86 1 to 1877 the principal working-class organ was the Beehive, 
established by a group of Trade Unionists who formed a company in 
which over a hundred Unions are said to have taken shares. The editor 
and virtual proprietor during its whole life appears to have been George 
Potter, who was assisted by a Consulting Committee, on which appeared, 
at some time or another, the names of all the leading London Trade 
Unionists. Potter, as we have already mentioned, was a man of equivocal 
character and conduct, who at no time held any important position in 
the Trade Union world, though his London Working Men's Association 
made a useful start of the movement for Trade Union representation in 
the House of Commons. Under his editorship the Beehive became the 
best Labour newspaper which has yet appeared. This was due to the 
persistent support of Frederic Harrison, Henry Crompton, E. S. Beesly, 
Lloyd Jones, and other friends of Trade Unionism who, for fifteen years, 
contributed innumerable articles, whilst such Trade Union leaders as 
Applegarth, Howell, and Shipton frequently appeared in its columns. 
These contributions make it of the greatest possible value to the student 
of Trade Union history. Unfortunately, the most complete file in any 
public library that in the British Museum begins only in 1869. Mr. 
John Burns possesses a unique set beginning in 1863, which he kindly 
placed at our disposal. In 1877 it was converted into the Industrial 
Preview, which came to an end in 1879. 

The place of the Beehive was, in 1881, to some extent taken by the 
Labour Standard, a penny weekly established by George Shipton, the 
Secretary of the London Trades Council. It ran from May 7, 1881, to 
April 29, 1882, and contained articles by Henry Crompton and Professor 
E. S. Beesly, together with much Trade Union information. 



FROM 1851 to 1863 all the effective forces in the Trade Union 
Movement were centred in London. Between 1863 and 
1867, as we descrTB^orin^rle^course of the last chapter, 
provincial organisations, such as the Glasgow and Sheffield 
Trades Councils, and provincial leaders such as Alexander 
Macdonald and John Kane, began to play an important 
part in the general movement. The dramatic crisis of 1867, 
and the subsequent political struggle, compelled us to break 
off our description of the growth of the movement in order 
to follow the Parliamentary action of the London leaders. 
But whilst the Junta and their allies were winning their 
great victories at Westminster, [t^e centre of gravity of the 
Trade Union world was being insensibly shifted from London 
to the industrial districts north of the Humbef:) This was 
primarily due to tfe rapid growth of two great provincial 
organisations, the federations of Coal-miners and Cotton 
Operatives. _ J 

The Miners, now one of the most powerful contingents 
of the Trade Union forces, were, until 1863, without any 
effective organisation. The Miners' Association of Great 
Britain, which, as we have seen, sprang in 1841-43 into a 
vigorous existence, collapsed in 1848. An energetic attempt 
made by Martin Jude to re-establish a National Association 



Sectional Developments 

in 1850, when a conference was held at Newcastle, was, in 
consequence of the continued depression in the coal trade, 
entirely unsuccessful. For the next few years " the frag- 
ments of union that existed got less by degrees and more 
minute till, at the close of 1855, it might be said that union 
among the miners in the whole country had almost died 
out." l The revival which took place between 1858 and 
1863 was due, in the main, to the persistent work of the 
able man who became for fifteen years their trusted leader. 
(Alexander Macdonalcty to whose lifelong devotion the 
miners owe their present position in the Trade Union world, 
stands, like William Newton, midway \between the casual 
and amateur leaders of the old Trade Unionism and the 
paid officials of the new type^ Himself originally a miner 
and the son of a miner, the education and independent 

1 Address of Alexander Macdonald to the Leeds Conference, 1873. 
Alexander Macdonald, the son of a sailor, who became a miner in Lanark- 
shire, was born at Airdrie in 1821, and went to work in the pit 'at the 
age of eight. Having an ardent desire for education he prepared himself 
as best he could for Glasgow University, which he entered in 1846, sup- 
porting himself from his savings, and from his work as a miner in the 
summer. Whilst still at the University he became known as a leader of 
the miners all over Scotland. In 1850 he became a mine manager, and 
in 1851 he opened a school at Airdrie, an occupation which he abandoned 
in 1855 to devote his whole time to agitation on behalf of the miners. 
On the formation, in 1863, of the National Union of Miners, he was elected 
president, a position which he retained until his death. Meanwhile he 
was, by a series of successful commercial speculations, acquiring a modest 
fortune, which enabled him to devote his whole energies to the promo- 
tion of the Parliamentary programme which he had impressed upon the 
miners. He gave important evidence before the Select Committee of 
1865 on the Master and Servant Law. In 1868 he offered himself as a 
candidate for the Kilmarnock Burghs, but retired to avoid a split. At 
the General Election of 1874 he was more successful, being returned for 
Stafford, and thus becoming (with Thomas Burt) the first " Labour 
Member." He was shortly afterwards appointed a member of the Royal 
Commission on the Labour Laws, and eventually presented a minority 
report of his own on the subject. He died in 1881. A history of the 
coal-miners which ne projected was apparently never written, and, with, 
the exception of numerous presidential addresses and other speeches, and 
a pamphlet entitled Notes and Annotations on the Coal Mines Regulation 
Act, 1872 (Glasgow, 1872, 50 pp.), we have found nothing from his pen. 
A eulogistic notice of his life by Lloyd Jones appeared in the Newcastle 
Chronicle, November 17, 1883, most of which is reprinted in Dr. Baern- 
reither's English Associations of Working Men, p. 408. 

Alexander Macdonald 301 

means which he had acquired enabled him, from 1857 
ohwards, to apply himself continuously to the miners' 
cause. A florid style, and somewhat flashy personality, 
did him no harm with the rough and uneducated workmen 
whom he had to marshal. The main source of his effective- 
ness lay, however, neither in his oratory nor in his powers 
of organisation, but in his exact appreciation of the partic- 
ular changes that would remedy the miners' grievances, 
and in the tactical skill with which he embodied these 
changes in legislative form. Like his friends, Allan and 
Applegarth, he relied almost exclusively on Parliamentary 
agitation as a means for securing his ends. But whilst the 
Junta were contenting themselves with securing political 
freedom for Trade Unionists, Macdonald from the first 
persistently -pressed for the legislative regulation of the 
conditions of labour. ^\nd though, like his London allies, 
he consorted largely with the middle-class friends of Trade 
Unionism, and freely utilised their help in the House of 
Commons, he proved his superior originality and tenacity 
of mind by never in the slightest degree abandoning the 
fundamental principle of Trade Unionism the compulsory 
maintenance of the workman's Standard of Life. ) 

" It was in 1856," said Macdonald on a later occasion, 
" that I crossed the Border first to advocate a better Mines 
Act, true weighing, the education of the young, the restric- 
tion of the age till twelve years, the reduction of the working 
hours to eight in every twenty-four, the training of managers, 
the payment of wages weekly in the current coin of the realm, 
no truck, and many other useful things too numerous to 
mention here. Shortly after that, bone began to come to 
bone, and by 1858 we were in full action for better laws." 1 
The pit clubs and informal committees that pressed these 
demands upon the legislature became centres of local 
organisation, with which Macdonald kept up an incessant 
correspondence. An arbitrary lock-out of several thousand 
men by the South Yorkshire coal-owners in 1858 welded 

1 Address to the Miners' National Conference at Leeds, 1873. 

3O2 Sectional Developments 

the miners of that coal-field into a compact district asso- 
ciation, and enabled Macdonald, in the same year, to get 
together a national conference at Ashton-under-Lyne, at 
which, however, the delegates could claim to represent only 
four thousand men in union. In 1860, when the Mines 
Regulation Act was being passed into law, Macdonald was 
able to score a success in the " checkweigher " clause, to 
which we shall again refer. Not until the end of 1863, how- 
ever, can the Miners' National Union be said to have been 
effectively established ; and the proceedings of the Leeds 
Conference of that year strike the note of the policy which 
Macdonald, to the day of his death, never ceased to press 
upon the miners, and to which the great majority of them 
have now, after a temporary digression, once more returned. 
The Miners' Conference at Leeds was in many respects 
a notable gathering, Instead of the formless interchange of 
talk which had marked the previous conference, Macdonald 
induced the fifty-one delegates who sat from the gth to the 
i4th of November 1863 at the People's Co-operative Hall 
to organise their meeting on the model of the National Asso- 
ciation for the Promotion of Social Science, and divide 
themselves into three sections, on Law, on Grievances, and 
on Social Organisation, each of which reported to the whole 
conference. 1 The proceedings of the day were opened with 
prayer by the " Chaplain to the Conference," the Rev. 
Joseph Rayner Stephens, celebrated as the opponent of 
the New Poor Law and the advocate of factory legislation 
and Chartism. 2 In the reports of the sections and the 

1 The Conference appointed a sub-committee to compile and publish 
its proceedings, "a thing," as the preface explains, "altogether unpar- 
alleled in the records of labour." And indeed the elaborate volume, 
regularly published by the eminent firm of Longmans in 1864, entitled 
Transactions and Results of the National Association of Coal, Lime, and 
Ironstone Miners of Great Britain, held at Leeds, November 9, 10, II, 12, 
13, and 14, 1863, with its 174 pages, its frontispiece representing the 
pit-brow women, and its motto on the title-page extracted from the 
writings of W. E. Gladstone, formed a creditable and impressive appeal 
to the reading public. 

2 For this militant Chartist (1805-79), see Life of Joseph Rayner 
Stephens, by G. J. Holyoake, 1881. 

Legal Regulation 303 

numerous resolutions of the conference we find all the points 
of Macdonald's programme. The paramount importance of 
securing the Standard of Life by means of legislative regu- 
lation of the conditions of work is embodied in a lengthy 
series of proposals which have nearly all since been inserted 
in the detailed code of mining law. In contradistinction 
to the view which would make wages depend upon prices, 
the principle of controlling industry in such a way as to 
prevent encroachments on the workman's standard main- 
tenance is clearly foreshadowed. " Overtoil," says the 
report, " produces over-supply ; low prices and low wages 
follow ; bad habits and bad health follow, of course ; and 
then diminished production and profits are inevitable. Re- 
duction of toil, and consequent improved bodily health, 
increases production in the sense of profit ; and limits it 
so as to avoid overstocking ; better wages induce better 
habits, and economy of working follows. . . . The evil of 
overtoil and over-supply upon wages, and upon the labourer, 
is therefore a fair subject of complaint ; and, we submit, 
as far as these are human by conventional arrangements, 
are a fair and proper subject of regulation. Regulations 
must, of course, be twofold. Part can be legislated for 
by compulsory laws ; but the principle (sic) must be 
the subject of voluntary agreement." 1 The restriction of 
labour in mines to a maximum of eight hours per day was 
strongly urged ; but at Macdonald's instance it was astutely 
resolved not to ask for a legal regulation of the hours of 
adult men, but to confine the Parliamentary proposal to a 
Bill for boys. And it is interesting to observe already at 
this time (he beginning of the deep cleavage between the 
miners of Northumberland and Durham and their fellow- 
workers elsewhere.N The close connection between the legal 
regulation of the hours of boys and the fixing of the men's 
day is brought out by William Crawford, the future leader 

1 Transactions and Results of the National Association of Coal, Lime, 
and Ironstone Miners of Great Britain, held at Leeds, November 9, 10, II, 
12, 13, and 14, 1863, p. 14. 

304 Sectional Developments 

of the Durham men. The general feeling of the conference 
was in favour of a drastic legal prohibition of boys being 
kept in the mine for more than eight hours, but Crawford 
declared that " an eight hours bill could not be carried out 
in his district. He wanted the boys to work ten hours a day, 
and the men six hours." 1 He therefore proposed a legal Ten 
Hours Day for the boys. The conference, however, declined 
to depart from the principle of Eight Hours ; and the Bill 
drafted in this sense was eventually adopted without dissent. 
Another reform advocated by Macdonald has had far- 
reaching though unforeseen effect upon the miners' organisa- 
tion. The arbitrary confiscation of the miners' pay for 
any tubs or hutches which were declared to be improperly 
filled had long been a source of extreme irritation. It 
had become a regular practice of unscrupulous coal-owners 
to condemn a considerable percentage of the men's hutches, 
and thus escape payment for part of the coal hewn. The 
grievance was aggravated by the absolute dependence of 
the miner, working underground, upon the honesty and 
accuracy of the agent of the employer on the surface, who 
recorded the amount of his work. A demand was accord- 
ingly made by the men for permission to have their own 
representative at the pit-bank, who should check the weight 
to be paid for. During the year 1859 great contests took 
place in South Yorkshire, in which, after embittered resist- 
ance, the employers in several collieries conceded this boon. 
A determined attempt was then made by the South York- 
shire Miners' Union, aided by Macdonald, to insert a clause 
in the Mines Regulation Bill, making it compulsory to weigh 
the coal, and to allow a representative of the men to check 
the weight. A great Parliamentary fight took place on the 
men's amendment, with the result that the Act of 1860 
empowered the miners of each pit to appoint a checkweigher, 
but confined their choice to persons actually in employment 

1 Transactions and Results of the National A ssociation of Coal, Lime, and 
Ironstone Miners of Great' Britain, held at Leeds, November 9, 10, n, 12, 13, 
and 14, 1863, p. 17. In Northumberland and Durham the hewers very 
largely work in two shifts, whilst there used to be only one shift of boys. 

The Checkweigher 305 

at the particular mine. 1 This important victory was long 
rendered nugatory by the evasions of the coal-owners. At 
Barnsley, for instance, Normansell, appointed checkweigher, 
was promptly dismissed from employment and refused 
access to the pit's mouth. When the employer was fined 
for this breach of the law he appealed to the Queen's Bench ; 
and it cost the Union two years of costly litigation to 
enforce the reinstatement of the men's agent. 2 The next 
twenty years are full of attempts by coal-owners to avoid 
compliance with this law. Where the men could not be 
persuaded or terrified into forgoing their right to appoint 
a checkweigher, every device was used to hamper his work. 
Sometimes he was excluded from close access to the weighing- 
machine. In other pits the weights were fenced up so that 
he could not clearly see them. His calculations were hotly 
disputed, and his interference bitterly resented. The 
Miners' Unions, however, steadily fought their way to per- 
fect independence for the checkweigher. The Mines Regu- 
lation Act of 1872 slightly strengthened his position. Finally 
the Act of 1887, confirmed by that of 1911, made clear the 
right of the men, by a decision of the majority of those 

1 Section 29 of Mines Regulation Act of 1860. 

2 Normansell v. Platt. John Normansell, the agent of the South 
Yorkshire Miners' Association, stands second only to Macdonald as a 
leader of the miners between 1863 and 1875. The son of a banksman, 
he was born at Torkington, Cheshire, in 1830, and left an orphan at an 
early age. At seven he entered the pit, and when, at the age of nine- 
teen, he married, he was unable to write his own name. Migrating to 
South Yorkshire, he became a leader in the agitation to secure a check- 
weigher, which the local coal-owners conceded in 1859. Normansell was 
elected to the post for his own pit, and rapidly became the leading spirit 
in the district. After the lock-out of 1864 he was elected secretary to 
the Union, then counting only two thousand members. Within eight 
years he had raised its membership to twenty thousand, and built up an 
elaborate system of friendly benefits. Normansell was the first working- 
man Town Councillor, having been triumphantly elected at Barnsley, his 
Union subscribing ,^1000 to lodge in the bank in his name, in order to 
enable him to declare himself possessed of the pecuniary qualification at 
that time required. On his death the amount was voted to his widow. 
Normansell gave evidence in 1867 before the Select Committee on Coal- 
mining, and before that on the Master and Servant Law, in 1868 before 
the Royal Commission on Trade Unions, and in 1873 before that on the 
Coal Supply. 

306 Sectional Developments 

employed in any pit, to have, at the expense of the whole 
pit, a checkweigher with full power to keep an accurate 
and independent record of each man's work. 

It would be interesting to trace to what extent the 
special characteristics of the miners' organisations are due 
to the influence of this one legislative reform. Its recog- 
nition and promotion of collective action by the men has 
been a direct incitement to combination. The compulsory 
levy, upon the whole pit, of the cost of maintaining the 
agent whom a bare majority could decide to appoint has 
practically found, for each colliery, a branch secretary 
free of expense to the Union. But the result upon the 
character of the officials has been even more important. 
The checkweigher has to be a man of character insensible 
to the bullying or blandishments of manager or employers. 
He must be of strictly regular habits, accurate and business- 
like in mind, and quick at figures. The ranks of the check- 
weighers serve thus as an admirable recruiting ground from 
which a practically inexhaustible supply of efficient Trade 
Union secretaries or labour representatives can be drawn. 

The Leeds Conference of 1863 was the first of a series 
of yearly or half-yearly gatherings of miners' delegates 
which did much to consolidate their organisation. The 
powerful aid brought by Macdonald to the movement for 
the Master and Servant Act of 1867 has already been de- 
scribed. But between 1864 and 1869 the almost uninter- 
rupted succession of strikes and lock-outs, in one county or 
another, prevented the National Association from taking a 
firm hold on the men in the less organised districts. In 
1869 a rival federation, called the Amalgamated Association 
of Miners, was formed by the men of some Lancashire pits, 
to secure more systematic support of local strikes. I This 
split only increased the number of miners in union, which 
in a few years reached the unprecedented total of two 
hundred thousand^ 

It is easy to understand how much this army of miners, 
marshalled by an expert Parliamentary tactician, added to 

The Cotton Operatives 307 

the political weight of the Trade Union leaders. Though 
only partially enfranchised, their influence at the General 
Election of 1868 was marked ; and when, in 1871, the 
Trades Union Congress appointed a Parliamentary Committee 
Macdonald became its chairman. Next year he succeeded 
in getting embodied in the new Mines Regulation Act many 
of the minor amendments of the law for which he had been 
pressing ; and in 1874 he and his colleague, Thomas Burt, 
became, as we have seen, the first working-men members of 
the House of Commons. 

Not less important than the somewhat scattered hosts 
of the Coal-miners was the compact body of the Lancashire 
Cotton Operatives, who, from 1869 onward, began to be 
reckoned as an integral part of the Trade Union world. 
The Lancashire textile workers, who had, in the early part 
of the century, played such a prominent part in the Trade 
Union Movement, and whose energetic " Short Time Com- 
mittees " had, in 1847, obtained the Ten Hours Act, appear 
to have fallen, during the subsequent years, into a state of 
disorganisation and disunion. In 1853, it is true, the 
present Amalgamated Association of Cotton-spinners was 
established ; but this federal Union was weakened, until 
1869, by the abstention or lukewarmness of the local 
organisations of such important districts as Oldham and 
Bolton. The cotton-weavers were in a somewhat similar 
condition. The Blackburn Association, established in 1853, 
was gradually overshadowed by the North-East Lancashire 
Association, a federation of the local weavers' societies in the 
smaller towns, established in 1858. This association, growing 
out of a secession from the Blackburn organisation, had 
for its special object the combined support of a skilled 
calculator of prices, able to defend the operatives' interests , * 
in the constant discussions which arose upon the com-// 
plicated lists of piecework rates which characterise the 
English cotton industry. 1 

1 The best and indeed the only exact account of these cotton lists is 
that prepared for the Economic Section of the British Association by a 

308 Sectional Developments 

It is difficult to convey to the general reader any adequate 
idea of the important effect which these elaborate " Lists " 
have had upon the Trade Union Movement in Lancashire. 
The universal satisfaction with, and even preference for, 
the piecework system among the Lancashire cotton opera- 
tives is entirely due to the existence of these definitely 
fixed and published statements. An even more important 
result has been the creation of a peculiar type of Trade 
Union official. For although the lists are elaborately worked 
out in detail the Bolt on Spinning List, for instance, com- 
prising eighty-five pages closely filled with figures * the 
intricacy of the calculations is such as to be beyond the com- 
prehension not only of the ordinary operative or manufac- 
turer, but even of the investigating mathematician without 
a very minute knowledge of the technical detail. Yet the 
week's earnings of every one of the tens of thousands of 
operatives are computed by an exact and often a separate 
calculation under these lists. And when an alteration of 
the list is in question, the standard wage of a whole district 
may depend upon the quickness and accuracy with which 
the operatives' negotiator apprehends the precise effect of 
each projected change in any of the numerous factors in the 
calculation. It will be obvious that for work of this nature 

committee consisting of Professor Sidgwick, Professor Foxwell, A. H. D. 
(now Sir Arthur) Acland, Dr. W. Cunningham, and Professor J. E. C. 
Munro, the report being drawn up by the latter. (On the Regulation of 
Wages by means of Lists in the Cotton Industry, Manchester, 1887 ; in 
two parts Spinning and Weaving.) See History of Wages in the Cotton 
Trade during the Past Hundred Years, by G. H. Wood, 1910; A Century 
of Fine Cotton Spinning, by McConnel & Co., 1906; and Standard Piece 
Lists and Sliding Scales, by the Labour Department of the Board of 
Trade, Cd. 144, 1900. 

The principles upon which the lists are framed are so complicated 
that we confess, after prolonged study, to be still perplexed on certain 
points ; and though Professor Munro clears up many difficulties, we are 
disposed to believe that even he, in some particulars, has not in all cases 
correctly stated the matter. We have discussed the whole subject in our 
Industrial Democracy. 

1 Bolton and District Net List of Prices for Spinning Twist, Reeled 
Yarn or Bastard Twist, and Weft, on Self -actor Mules (Bolton, 1887; 
85 pp.). 

The Short Time Bill 309 

the successful organiser or " born orator " was frequently 
quite unfit. There grew up, therefore, both among the 
weavers and the spinners, a system of selection of new secre- 
taries by competitive examination, which has gradually 
been perfected as the examiners that is, the existing 
officials have themselves become more skilled. The first 
secretary to undergo this ordeal was Thomas Birtwistle, 1 
who in 1 86 1 began his thirty years' honourable and successful 
service of the Lancashire Weavers. Within a few years he 
was reinforced by other officials selected for the same . 
characteristics. From 1871 onwards the counsels of the 
Trade Union Movement were strengthened by the intro- 
duction of " the cotton men/' a body of keen, astute, and 
alert-minded officials a combination, in the Trade Union 
world, of the accountant and the lawyer. 

Under such guidance the Lancashire cotton operatives 
achieved extraordinary success. Their first task was in all 
districts to obtain and perfect the lists. The rate and 
method of remuneration being in this way secured, their 
energy was devoted to improving the other conditions of 
their labour by means of appropriate legislation. Ever 
since 1830 the Lancashire operatives, especially the spinners, 
have strongly supported the legislative regulation of the 
hours and other conditions of their industry. In 1867 a 
delegate meeting of the Lancashire textile operatives, under 
the presidency of the Rev. J. R. Stephens, had resolved 
" to agitate for such a measure of legislative restriction as 
shall secure a uniform Eight Hours Bill in factories, exclusive 
of meal-times, for adults, females, and young persons, and 
that such Eight Hours Bill have for its foundation a restric- 
tion on the moving power." 2 On the improvement of trade 

1 Birtwistle was, in 1892, at an advanced age, appointed by the Home 
Secretary an Inspector in the Factory Department, under the " particu- 
lars clause-" (sec. 24 of the Factory and Workshops Act, 1891), as the 
only person who could be found competent to understand and interpret 
the intricacies of the method of remuneration in the weaving trade. 

z Beehive, February 23, 1867. The circular announcing the resolu- 
tion is signed by the leading officers of the Cotton-spinners' and Cotton- 
weavers' Unions of the time. 

3io Sectional Developments 

and the revival of Trade Union strength in 1871-72 this policy 
was again resorted to. The Oldham spinners tried, indeed, 
in 1871, to secure a " Twelve-o'clock Saturday " by means 
of a strike. But on the failure of this attempt the dele- 
gates of the various local societies, both of spinners and 
weavers usually the officials of the trade met together 
and established, on the 7th of January 1872, the Factory 
Acts Reform Association, for the purpose of obtaining 
such an amendment of the law as would reduce the hours 
of labour from sixty to fifty-four per week. 

The Parliamentary policy of these shrewd tacticians is 
only another instance of the practical opportunism of the 
English Trade Unionist. The cotton officials demurred in 
1872 to an overt alliance with the Parliamentary Committee 
of the Trades Union Congress, just then engaged in its heated 
agitation for a repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. 
" Some members of the Short Time Committee," states, 
without resentment, the Congress report, " thought that even 
co-operation with the Congress Committee would be disas- 
trous rather than useful, ... as Lord Shaftesbury and 
others declared they would not undertake a measure pro- 
posed in the interest of the Trades Unions." 1 So far as 
the public and the House of Commons were concerned, the 
Bill was accordingly, as we are told, " based upon quite 
other grounds." jilts provisions were ostensibly restricted, 
like those of the Ten Hours Act, to women and children ; 
and to the support of Trade Union champions such as 
Thomas Hughes and A. J. Mundella was added that of such 
philanthropists as Lord Shaftesbury and Samuel Morley. 
But it is scarcely necessary to say that it was not entirely, 
or even exclusively, for the sake of the women and children 
that the skilled leaders of the Lancashire cotton operatives 
had diverted their " Short Time Movement " from aggressive 
strikes to Parliamentary agitation. The private minutes 
of the Factory Acts Reform Association contain no mention 

1 Report of the Parliamentary Committee to the Trades Union Con- 
gress, January 1873. 

" Behind the Women's Petticoats " 311 

of the woes of the women and the children, but reflect 
throughout the demand of the adult male spinners for a 
shorter day. And in the circular " to the factory opera- 
tives," calling the original meeting of the association, we 
find the spinners' 'secretary combating the fallacy that 
" any legislative interference with male adult labour is an 
economic error," and demanding " a legislative enactment 
largely curtailing the hours of factory labour," in order 
that his constituents, who were exclusively adult males, 
might enjoy " the nine hours per day, or fifty-four hours 
per week, so liberally conceded to other branches of work- 
men." * It was, however, neither necessary nor expedient 
to take this line in public. The experience of a generation 
had taught the Lancashire operatives that any effective 
limitation of the factory day for women and children could 
not fail to bring with it an equivalent shortening of the j 
hours of the men who worked with them. And in the 
state of mind, in 1872, of the House of Commons, and even 
of the workmen in other trades, it would have proved as 
impossible as it did in 1847 to secure an avowed restriction 
of the hours of male adults. * 

The Short Time Bill was therefore so drafted as to apply 
in express terms only to women and children, whose suffer- 
ings under a ten hours day were made much of on the 
platform and in the press. The battle, in fact, was, as one j 
of the leading combatants has declared, 2 " fought from 
behind the women's petticoats." But it was a part of the 
irony of the situation that, as Broadhurst subsequently 
pointed out, 3 the Bill " encountered great opposition from 

1 Circular of December n, 1871, signed on behalf of the preliminary 
meeting by Thomas Mawdsley not to be mistaken for James Mawdsley, 
J.P., a subsequent secretary. 

2 Thomas Ashton, J.P. (died 1919), then secretary of the Oldham 
Spinners, often made this statement. On the 26th of May 1893 the 
Cotton Factory Times, the men's accredited organ, declared, with refer- 
ence to the Eight Hours Movement, that " now the veil must be lifted, 
and the agitation carried on under its true colours. Women and children 
must no longer be made the pretext for securing a reduction of working 
hours for men." 

3 Speech at Trades Union Congress, Bristol, 1878. 

312 Sectional Developments 

the female organisations " ; and it was, in fact, expressly 
in the interests of working women that Professor Fawcett, 
in the session of 1873, moved the rejection of the measure. 1 
Even as limited to women and children the proposal en- 
countered a fierce resistance from the factory owners and 
the capitalists of all industries. The opinion of the House 
of Commons was averse from any further restriction upon 
the employers' freedom. The Ministry of the day lent it no 
assistance. The Bill, introduced in 1872, and again in 
1873, made no progress. At length, in 1873, the Govern- 
ment shelved the question by appointing a Royal Commission 
to inquire into the working of the Factory Acts. But a 
General Election was now drawing near ; and " a Factory 
Nine Hours Bill for Women and Children " was incorporated 
in the Parliamentary programme pressed upon candidates 
by the whole Trade Union world. 2 

We have already pointed out what an attentive ear the 
Conservative party was at this time giving to the Trade 
Union demands. It is therefore not surprising that when 
Mundella, in the new Parliament, once more introduced his 
Bill, the Home Secretary, Mr. (afterwards Viscount) Cross, 
announced that the Government would bring forward a 
measure of their own. The fact that the Government draft 
was euphemistically entitled the " Factories (Health of 
Women, etc.) Bill " did not conciliate the opponents of the 
shorter factory day which it ensured ; but, to the great 
satisfaction of the spinners, this opposition was unsuccess- 
ful ; and, if not a nine hours day, at any rate a 56-! hours 
week became law. This short and successful Parliamentary 
campaign brought the cotton operatives into closer contact 
with the London leaders ; and from 1875 the Lancashire 
representatives exercised an important influence in the 
Trades Union Congress and its Parliamentary Committee. 

1 " From what I have heard," writes Professor Beesly in the Beehive, 
May 1 6, 1874, " I am inclined to think that no single fact had more to 
do with the defeat of the Liberal Party in Lancashire at the last election 
than Mr. Fawcett's speech on the Nine Hours Bill in the late Parliament." 

2 Report of Trades Union Congress, Sheffield, January 1874. 

Coal and Cotton 313 

Henceforth detailed amendments of the Factory Acts, and 
increased efficiency in their administration, become almost 
standing items in the official Trade Union programme. 

An interesting parallelism might be traced between the 
cotton operatives on" the one hand and the coal-miners on ! 
the other. To outward seeming no two occupations could 
be more unlike. Yet without community of interest, with- 
out official intercourse, and without any traceable imitation, 
the organisations of the two trades show striking resem- 
blances to each other in history, in structural development, 
and in characteristics of policy, method, and aims. Many 
of these similarities may arise from the remarkable local 
aggregation in particular districts, which is common to both 
industries. From this ^lopal aggregation spring, perhaps, 
the possibilities of a stron^Te^eratlon existing without 
centralised funds, and of a permanent trade society en- 
during without friendly benefits. A further similarity may 
be seen in the creation, in each case, (of a special class of 
Trade Union officials^ far more numerous in proportion to 
membership than is usual in the engineering or building 
trades. But the most noticeable, and perhaps the most 
important, of these resemblances is the constancy with 
which both the miners and the cotton operatives have 
adhered to the legislative protection of the Standard of 
Life as a leading principle of their Trade Unionism. 

Whilst these important divisions of the Trade Union 
army were aiming at legislative protection, victories in 
another field were bringing whole sections of Trade Unionists 
to a different conclusion. The successful Nine Hours Move- 
ment of 1871-72 the reduction, by collective bargaining, of 
the hours of labour in the engineering and building trades 
rivalled the legislative triumphs of the miners and the 
cotton operatives. 

Since the great strikes in the London building trades in 
1859-61, the movement in favour of a reduction of the 
hours of labour had been dragging on in various parts of 
the country. The masons, carpenters, and other building 

Sectional Developments 

operatives had in many towns, and after more or less con- 
flict, secured what was termed the Nine Hours Day. In 
1866 an agitation arose among the engineers of Tyneside for 
a similar concession ; but the sudden depression of trade 
put an end to the project. In 1870, when the subject was 
discussed at the Newcastle " Central District Committee " 
of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, the spirit of 
caution prevailed, and no action was taken. Suddenly, at 
the beginning of 1871, the Sunderland men took the matter 
up, and came out on strike on the ist of April. After 
four weeks' struggle, almost be-fore the engineers elsewhere 
had realised that there was any chance of success, the local 
employers gave way, and the Nine Hours Day was won. 

It was evident that the Sunderland movement was 
destined to spread to the other engineering centres in the 
neighbourhood ; and the master engineers of the entire 
North-Eastern District promptly assembled at Newcastle 
on April 8 to concert a united resistance to the men's 
demands. The operatives had first to form their organisa- 
tion. Though Newcastle has since become one of the 
best centres of Trade Unionism, the Amalgamated Society 
of Engineers could, in 1871, count only five or six hundred 
members in the town ; the Boilermakers, Steam-Engine 
Makers, and Ironfounders were also weak, and probably 
two out of three of the men in the engineering trade be- 
longed to no Union whatsoever. A " Nine Hours league," 
embracing Unionists and non-Unionists alike, was accord- 
ingly formed for the special purpose of the agitation ; and 
this body was fortunate enough to elect as its President 
John Burnett, 1 a leading member of the local branch of 

1 John Burnett, who was born at Alnwick, Northumberland, in 1842, 
became, after the Nine Hours Strike, a lecturer for the National Educa- 
tion League, and joined the staff of the Newcastle Chronicle. In 1875, on 
Allan's death, he was elected to the General Secretaryship of the Amal- 
gamated Society of Engineers. He was a member of the Parliamentary 
Committee of the Trades Union Congress from 1876 to 1885. In 1886 
he was appointed to the newly-created post of Labour Correspondent of 
the Board of Trade, in which capacity he prepared and issued a series 
of reports on Trade Unions and Strikes. On the establishment of the 

The Nine Hours Strike 315 

the Amalgamated Society, afterwards to become widely 
known as the General Secretary of that great organisation. 
The " Nine Hours League " became, in fact though not in 
name, a temporary Trade Union, its committee conducting 
all the negotiations 'on the men's behalf, appealing to the 
Trade Union world for funds for their support, and managing 
all the details of the conflict that ensued. 1 

The five months' strike which led up to a signal victory 
for the men was, in more than one respect, a notable event 
in Trade Union annals. The success with which several 
thousands of unorganised workmen, unprovided with any 
accumulated funds, were marshalled and disciplined, and 
the ability displayed in the whole management of the 'dis- 
pute, made the name of their leader celebrated throughout 
the world of labour. The tactical skill and literary force 
with which the men's case was presented achieved the 
unprecedented result of securing for their demands the 
support of the Times 2 and the Spectator. Money was 

Labour Department in 1893 he became Chief Labour Correspondent 
under the Commissioner for Labour, and was selected to visit the United 
States to prepare a report on the effects of Jewish immigration. He 
retired in 1907 and died 1914. 

1 A full account of this conflict is given by John Burnett in his History 
of the Engineers' Strike in Newcastle and Gateshead (Newcastle, 1872; 
77 PP-)- A description by the Executive of the Amalgamated Society of 
Engineers is given in their " Abstract Report " up to December 31, 1872. 
The Newcastle Daily Chronicle, from April to October 1871, furnishes a 
detailed contemporary record. The leading articles and correspondence 
in the Times of September 1871 are important. 

2 See the Times leader of September n, 1871. This leader, which 
pronounced " the conduct of the employers throughout this dispute as 
imprudent and impolitic," called forth the bewildered remonstrance of 
Sir William (afterwards Lord) Armstrong, writing on behalf of " the 
Associated Employers." " We were amazed," writes the great captain 
of industry, " to see ourselves described in your article as being in a 
condition of hopeless difficulty ; and we really felt that, if the League 
themselves had possessed the power of inspiring that article, they could 
scarcely have used words more calculated to serve their purposes than 
those in which it is expressed. The concurrent appearance in the Spectator 
of an article exhibiting the same bias adds to our surprise. We had 
imagined that a determined effort to wrest concessions from employers 
by sheer force of combination was not a thing which found favour with 
the more educated and intelligent classes, whose opinions generally find 
expression in the columns of the Times " (Times September 14, 1871). 

316 Sectional Developments 

subscribed slowly at first, but after three months poured 
in from all sides. Joseph Cowen, of the Newcastle Daily 
Chronicle, was from the first an ardent supporter of the 
men, and assisted them in many ways. The employers in 
all parts of the kingdom took alarm ; and a kind of levy 
of a shilling for each man employed was made upon the 
engineering firms in aid of the heavy expenses of the New- 
castle masters. In spite of the active exertions of the 
" International," several hundred foreign workmen were 
imported ; but many of these were subsequently induced 
to desert. 1 Finally the employers conceded the principal 
of the men's demands ; and fifty-four hours became the 
locally recognised week's time in all the engineering trades. 
This widely advertised success, coming at a time of 
expanding trade, greatly promoted the movement for the 
Nine Hours Day. From one end of the kingdom to the 
other, every little Trade Union branch discussed the ex- 
pediency of sending in notices to the employers. The 
engineering trades in London, Manchester, and other great 
centres induced their employers to grant their demands 
without a strike. The great army of workmen engaged in 
the shipbuilding yards on the Clyde even bettered this 
example, securing a fifty-one hours week. The building 
operatives quickly followed suit. Demands for a diminu- 
tion of the working day, with an increased rate of pay per 
hour, were handed in by local officials of the Carpenters, 
Masons, Bricklayers, Plumbers, and other organisations^. 
In many cases non-society men took the lead in the move- 
ment ; but it was soon found that the immediate success of 
the applications depended on the estimate formed by the 
employers of the men's financial resources, and their capacity 
to withhold their labour for a time sufficient to cause em- 
barrassment to business. Wherever the employers were 

1 Here the " International " was of use. At Burnett's instigation, 
Cohn, the Danish secretary in London, proceeded to the Continent to 
check this immigration, his expenses being paid by the Amalgamated 
Society of Engineers. 

The Two Policies 317 

assured of this fact, they usually gave way without a con- 
flict. The successes accordingly did much to create, in 
the industries in question, a preference for combination 
and collective bargaining as a means of improving the 
conditions of labour. The prevalence of systematic over- 
time, which has since proved so formidable a deduction 
from the advantages gained by the Nine Hours Movement, 
was either overlooked by sanguine officials, or covertly 
welcomed by individual workmen as affording opportunities 
for working at a higher rate of remuneration. 1 On the other 
hand, it was a patent fact that the mechanic employed in 
attending to the machinery of a textile mill was the only 
. member of his trade who was excluded from participation 
in the shortening of hours enjoyed by his fellow-tradesmen ; 
and that his failure to secure a shorter day was an in- 
cidental consequence of the existence of legislative restric- 
tions. Thus, at the very time that the textile operatives 
and coal-miners were, as we have seen, exhibiting a marked 
tendency to look more and more to Parliamentary action 
for the protection of the Standard of Life, the facts, as they 
presented themselves to the Amalgamated Engineer or 
Carpenter, were leading the members of these trades to a 
diametrically opposite conclusion. 

But though faith in trade combinations and collective 
bargaining was strengthened by the success of the Nine 
Hours Movement, the victories of the men did not increase 
the prestige of the two great Amalgamated Societies. The 
growing adhesion of the Junta to the economic views of 
their middle-class friends was marked by the silent aban- 
donment by Allan, Applegarth, and Guile of all leadership 
in trade matters. Already in 1865 we find the Executive 
Council of the Amalgamated Engineers explaining that, 
although they sympathised with advance movements, they 
felt unable to either support them by grants or to advise 

1 With regard to overtime, Burnett informed us that " it was found 
impossible to carry a Nine Hours Day pure and simple at the time of the 
strike of 1871, and that overtime should still be worked as required was 
insisted upon as a first condition of settlement by the employers." 

318 Sectional Developments 

their members to vote a special levy. 1 The " backwardness 
of the Council of the Engineers " constantly provoked angry 
criticism. The chief obstacles to advancement were de- 
clared to be Danter, the President of the Council, and the 
General Secretary, whose minds had been narrowed "by 
the routine of years of service within certain limits. . . . 
Never, since it effected amalgamation, has the Society 
solved one social problem ; nor has it now an idea of future 
progress. Its money is unprofitably and injudiciously in- 
vested even with a miser's care while its councils are 
marked with all the chilly apathy of a worn-out mission." 2 
What proved to be the greatest trade movement since 1852 
was undertaken in spite of the official disapproval of the 
governing body, and was carried to a successful issue 
without the provision from headquarters of any leadership 
or control. Though the Nine Hours Strike actually began 
in . Sunderland on April i, 1871, the London Executive 
remained silent on the subject until July. Towards the 
end of that month, when the Newcastle men had been out 
for seven weeks, a circular was issued inviting the branches 
to collect voluntary subscriptions for their struggling 
brethren. Ultimately, in September, the " Contingent 
Fund," out of which strike pay is given, was re-estab- 
lished by vote of the branches ; and the strike allowance of 
53. per week, over and above the ordinary out-of-work pay, 
was issued, after fourteen weeks' struggle, to the small 
minority of the men on strike who were members of the 
Society. An emissary was sent to the Continent, at the 
Society's expense, to defeat the employers' attempt to bring 
over foreign engineers ; but with this exception all the 
expenses of the struggle were defrayed from the subscrip- 
tions collected by the Nine Hours League. 3 And if we turn 

1 Meeting of London pattern-makers to seek advance of wages, Bee- 
hive, October 21, 1865. 

2 Letter from " Amalgamator/' Beehive, January 19, 1867. 

3 The rank and file were more sympathetic than the Executive. The 
machinery for making the collections was mostly furnished by the branches 
and committees of the Society. 

Trade Union Apathy 319 

for a moment from the Amalgamated Society of Engineers 
to the other great trade and friendly societies of the time, 
it is easy, in the minutes of their Executive Councils and 
the proceedings of their branches, to watch the same tend- 
ency at work. Whether it is the Masons or the Tailors, 
the Ironfounders or the Carpenters, we see the same aban- 
donment by the Central Executive of any dominant prin- 
ciple of trade policy, the same absence of initiative in trade 
movements, and the same more or less persistent struggle 
to check the trade activity of its branches. In the Amal- 
gamated Society of Carpenters, for example, we find, during 
these years, no attempt by headquarters to " level up " the 
wages of low-paid districts, or to grapple with the prob- 
lems of overtime or piecework. We watch, on the contrary, 
the branches defending themselves before the Executive 
for their little spurts of local activity, and pleading, in 
order to wring from a reluctant treasury the concession 
of strike pay, that they have been dragged into the 
" Advance Movement " by the more aggressive policy of 
the " General Union " (the rival trade society of the old 
type), or by irresponsible " strike-committees " of non- 
society men. 

Time and growth were, in fact, revealing the drawbacks 
of the constitution with which Newton and Allan had 
endowed their cherished amalgamation, and which had 
been so extensively copied by other trades. The diffi- 
culties arising from the attempt to unite, in one organisa- 
tion, men working in the numerous distinct branches of 
the engineering trade, demanded constant thought and 
attention. The rapid changes in the industry, especially 
in connection with the growing use of new machinery, 
needed to be met by a well-considered flexibility, dictated 
by full knowledge of the facts, and some largeness of view. 
To maintain a harmonious yet progressive trade policy in 
all the hundreds of branches would, of itself, have taxed 
the skill of a body of experts free from other preoccupa- 
tions. All these duties were, however, cast upon a single 

32O Sectional Developments 

salaried officer, 1 working under a committee of artisans 
who met in the evening after an exhausting day of physical 

The result might have been foreseen. The rapid growth 
of the society brought with it a huge volume of detailed 
business. Every grant of accident benefit or superannua- 
tion allowance was made by the Executive Council. Every 
week this body had to decide on scores of separate appli- 
cations for gifts from the Benevolent Fund. Every time 
any of the tens of thousands of members failed to get what 
he wanted from his branch, he appealed to the Executive 
Council. Every month an extensive trade report had to 
be issued. Every quarter the branch accounts had to be 
examined, dissected, and embodied in an elaborate sum- 
mary, itself absorbing no small amount of labour and 
thought. The hundreds of branch secretaries and treasurers 
had to be constantly supervised, checked by special audits, 
and perpetually admonished for negligent or accidental 
breaches of the complicated code by which the Society was 
governed. The Executive Council became, in fact, absorbed 
in purely " treasury " work, and spent a large part of its 
time in protecting the funds of the Society from extrava- 
gance, laxity of administration, or misappropriation. The 
quantity of routine soon became enormous ; and the whole 
attention of the General Secretary was given to coping with 
the mass of details which poured in upon him by every 

This huge friendly society business brought with it, too, 
its special bias. Allan grew more and more devoted to 
the accumulating fund, which was alike the guarantee and 
the symbol of the success of his organisation. Nothing 

1 An " Assistant Secretary " was subsequently added, and eventually 
another. But these assistants were, like the General Secretary himself, 
recruited from the ranks of the workmen, and however experienced they 
may have been in trade matters, were necessarily less adapted to the 
clerical labour demanded of them. The great Trade Friendly Societies 
of the Stonemasons, Bricklayers, and Ironfounders long continued to have 
only one assistant secretary, and no clerical staff whatever. 

Abandonment of the Strike 321 

was important enough to warrant any inroad on this sacred 
balance. The Engineers' Central Executive, indeed, practi- 
cally laid aside the weapon of the strike. " We believe," 
said Allan before the Royal Commission in 1867, " that 
all strikes are a complete waste of money, not only in relation 
to the workmen, but also to the employers." x The " Con- 
tingent Fund," out of which alone strike pay could be given, 
was between 1860 and 1872 repeatedly abolished by vote 
of the members, re-established for a short time, and again 
abolished. Trade Unionists who remembered the old con- 
flicts viewed with surprise and alarm the spirit which had 
come over the once active organisation. Even the experi- 
enced Dunning, whose moderation had, as we have suggested, 
dictated the first manifesto in which the new spirit can be 
traced, was moved to denunciation of Allan's apathy. " As 
a Trade Union," he writes in 1866, "the once powerful 
Amalgamated Society of Engineers is now as incapable to 
engage in a strike as the Hearts of Oak, the Foresters, or any 
other extensive benefit society. ... It formerly combined 
both functions, but now it possesses only one, that of a benefit 
society, with relief for members when out of work or travel- 
ling for employment superadded. . . . The Amalgamated 
Engineers, as a trade society, has ceased to exist." 2 

It would be a mistake to assume that the inertia and 
supineness of the " Amalgamated " Societies was a neces- 
sary result of their accumulated funds or their friendly 
benefits. The remarkable energy and success of the United 
Society of Boilermakers and Iron-shipbuilders, established 
in 1832, and between 1865 and 1875 rapidly increasing 
in membership and funds, shows that elaborate friendly 
benefits are not inconsistent with a strong and consistent 
trade policy. This quite exceptional success is, we believe, 
due to the fact that the Boilermakers provided an adequate 
salaried staff to attend to their trade affairs. The " district 
delegates " who were, between 1873 and 1889, appointed 

1 Question 827 in Report of Trade Union Commission (March 26, 1867). 
* Bookbinders' Trade Circular, January 1866. 


322 Sectional Developments 

for every important district, are absolutely unconcerned with 
the administration of friendly benefits, and devote them- 
selves exclusively to the work of Collective Bargaining. 
Unlike the General Secretaries of the Engineers, Carpenters, 
Stonemasons, or Ironfounders, who had but one salaried 
assistant, Robert Knight, the able- secretary of the Boiler- 
makers had under his orders an expert professional staff, 
and was accordingly able, not only to keep both employers 
and unruly members in check, but also successfully to adapt 
the Union policy to the changing conditions of the industry. 
In short, it was not the presence of friendly benefits, but the 
absence of any such class of professional organisers as exists 
in the organisations of the Coal-miners, Cotton Operatives, 
and Boilermakers, that created the deadlock in the adminis- 
tration of the great trade friendly societies. 1 

The direct result of this abnegation of trade leadership 
was a complete arrest of the tendency to amalgamation, 
and, in some cases, even a breaking away of sections already 
within the organisation. The various independent societies, 
such as the Boilermakers, Steam-Engine Makers, and the Co- 
operative Smiths, gave up all idea of joining their larger rival. 
In 1872 the Patternmakers, who had long been discontented 
at the neglect of their special trade interests, formed an 
organisation of their own, which has since competed with 
the Amalgamated for the allegiance of this exceptionally 
skilled class of engineers. Nor was Allan at all eager to 
make his organisation co-extensive with the whole engineer- 
ing industry. The dominant idea of the early years of the 
amalgamation the protection of those who had, by regular 
apprenticeship, acquired " a right to the trade " excluded 
many men actually working at one branch or another, 
whilst the friendly society bias against unprofitable recruits 
co-operated to restrict the membership to such sections of 

1 In 1892 the Amalgamated Engineers provided themselves, not only 
with district delegates, like those of the Boilermakers, but also with a 
salaried Executive Council. The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters has 
since started district delegates, and the other national societies gradually 
followed suit. 

Exclusiveness 323 

the engineering industry, and such members of each section, 
as could earn a minimum time wage fixed for each locality 
by the District Committee. 

This exclusiveness necessarily led to the development 
of other societies, which accepted those workmen who were 
not eligible for the larger organisation. The little local clubs 
of Machine-workers and Metal-planers expanded between 
1867 and 1872 into national organisations, and began to claim 
consideration at the hands of the better paid engineers, 
on whose heels they were treading. New societies, such 
as those of the National Society of Amalgamated Brass- 
workers, the Independent Order of Engineers and Machinists, 
and the Amalgamated Society of Kitchen Range, Stove 
Grate, Gas Stoves, Hot Water, Art Metal, and other Smiths 
and Fitters, sprang into existence during 1872, in avowed 
protest against the " aristocratic " rule of excluding all 
workmen who were not receiving a high standard rate. 
The Associated Blacksmiths of Scotland, which had been 
formed in 1857 out of a class of smiths which was, at the 
time, unrecognised in the rules of the Amalgamated, now 
began steadily to increase in membership. Finally, during 
the decade various local societies were refused the privilege 
of amalgamation on the ground that either they included 
sections of the trade not recognised by the rules, or that 
the average age of their constituents was such as to make 
them unprofitable members of a society giving heavy super- 
annuation benefit. To the tendency to create an " aristo- 
cracy of labour " was added, therefore, the fastidiousness of 
an insurance company. 

Many causes were thus co-operating to shift the centre 
of Trade Union influence from London to the provinces. 
The great trade friendly societies of Engineers, Carpenters, 
and Ironfounders were losing that lead in Trade Union 
matters which the political activity of the Junta had acquired 
for them. The Junta itself was breaking up. Applegarth, 
in many respects the leader of the group, resigned his 
secretaryship in 1871, and left the Trade Union Movement. 

324 Sectional Developments 

Odger, who lived until 1877, was from 1870 onwards devot- 
ing himself more and more to general politics. Allan, long 
suffering from an incurable disease, ctted in 1874. Mean- 
while provincial Trade Unionism was growing apace. The 
Amalgamated Society of Engineers, so long pre-eminent in 
numbers, began to be overshadowed by the federations of 
Coal-miners and Cotton Operatives. Even in the iron trades 
it found rivals in the rapidly growing organisations of 
Boilermakers (Iron-shipbuilders), whose headquarters were 
at Newcastle, and the Ironworkers centred at Darlington, 
whilst minor engineering societies were cropping up in all 
directions in the northern counties. The tendency to 
abandon London was further shown by the decision of the 
Amalgamated Society of Carpenters in 1871 to remove their 
head office to Manchester, a change which had the incidental 
effect of depriving the London leaders of the counsels of 
Applegarth's successor, J. D. Prior, one of the ablest disciples 
of the Junta. 

But although London was losing its hold on the Trade 
Union Movement, no other town inherited the leadership. 
Manchester, it is true, attracted to itself the headquarters 
of many national societies, and contained in these years 
perhaps the strongest group of Trade Union officials. 1 But 
there was no such concentration of all the effective forces 
as had formerly resulted in the Junta. Though Manchester 
might have furnished the nucleus of a Trade Union Cabinet, 
Alexander Macdonald was to be found either in Glasgow or 
London, Robert Knight at Liverpool and afterwards in 
Newcastle, John Kane at Darlington, the miners' agents all 

1 Mention should here be made of the Manchester and District Associa- 
tion of Trade Union Officials, an organisation which grew out of a joint 
committee formed to assist the South Wales miners in their strike of 
1875. The frequent meetings, half serious, half social, of this grandly 
named association, known to the initiated as " the Peculiar People," 
served for many years as opportunities for important consultations on 
Trade Union policy between the leaders of the numerous societies having 
offices in Manchester. It also had as an object the protection of Trade 
Union officials against unjust treatment by their own societies (see History 
of the British Trades Union Congress, by W. J. Davis, vol. i., 1910, p. 89). 

Trade Union Expansion 325 

over the country, whilst Henry Broadhurst (who in 1875 
succeeded George Howell as the Secretary of the Parlia- 
mentary Committee), John Burnett, the General Secretary 
of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and George 
Shipton, the Secretary of the London Trades Council, 
naturally remained in the Metropolis. The result of the 
shifting from London was, accordingly, not the establish- 
ment elsewhere of any new executive centre of the Trade 
Union Movement, but the rise of a sectional spirit, the 
promotion of sectional interests, and the elaboration of 
sectional policies on the part of the different trades. 

We have attempted in some detail to describe the internal 
growth of the Trade Union Movement between 1867 and 
1875, in order to enable the reader to understand the dis- 
heartening collapse which ensued in 1878-79, and the subse- 
quent splitting up of the Trade Union world into the hostile 
camps once more designated the Old Unionists and the 
New. But all the unsatisfactory features of 1871-75 were, 
during these years, submerged by a wave of extraordinary 
commercial prosperity and Trade Union expansion. The 
series of Parliamentary successes of 1871-75 produced, as 
we have seen, a 'feeling of triumphant elation among the 
Trade Union leaders. To the little knot of working men 
who had conducted the struggle for emancipation and 
recognition, the progress of these years seemed almost 
beyond beftef. In 1867 the officials of the Unions were 
regarded as pothouse agitators, " unscrupulous men, leading 
a half idle life, fattening on the contributions of their dupes," 
and maintaining, by violence and murder, a system of 
terrorism which was destructive, not only of the industry 
of the nation, but also of the prosperity and independence 
of character of the unfortunate working men who were 
their victims. The Unionist workman, tramping with his 
card in search of employment, was regarded by the constable 
and the magistrate as something between a criminal vagrant 
and a revolutionist. In 1875 the officials of the great 
societies found themselves elected to the local School Boards. 

326 Sectional Developments 

and even to the House of Commons, pressed by the Govern- 
ment to accept seats on Royal Commissions, and respect- 
fully listened to in the lobby. And these political results 
were but the signs of an extraordinary expansion of the 
Trade Union Movement itself. " The year just closed," 
says the report of the Parliamentary Committee in January 
1874, " has been unparalleled for the rapid growth and 
development of Trade Unionism. In almost every trade 
this appears to have been the same ; but it is especially 
remarkable in those branches of industry which have hitherto 
been but badly organised." Exact numerical details cannot 
now be ascertained ; but the Trades Union Congress of 
1872 claimed to represent only 375,000 organised workmen, 
whilst that of 1874 included delegates from nearly three 
times as many societies, representing a nominal total of 
1,191,922 members. 1 It is possible that between 1871 and 
1875 the number of Trade Unionists was more than doubled. 
We see this progress reflected in the minds of the em- 
ployers. At the end of 1873 we find the newly established 
National Federation of Associated Employers of Labour 
declaring that " the voluntary and intermittent efforts of 
individual employers," or even employers' associations con- 
fined to a single trade or locality, are helpless against 
" the extraordinary development far-reaching, but openly- 
avowed designs and elaborate organisation of the Trade 
Unions." " Few are aware," continues this manifesto, " of 
the extent, compactness of organisation, large resources, and 
great influence of the Trade Unions. . . . They have the 
control of enormous funds, which they expend freely in 
furtherance of their objects ; and the proportion of their 
earnings which the operatives devote to the service of their 
leaders is startling. . . . They have a well-paid and ample 
staff of leaders, most of them experienced in the conduct of 
strikes, many of them skilful as organisers, all forming a class 

1 Report of the Trades Union Congress, Sheffield, 1874. A table 
printed in the Appendix to the present volume gives such comparative 
statistics of Trade Union membership as we have been able to compile- 

What the Employers said 327 

apart, a profession, with interests distinct from, though not 
necessarily antagonistic to, those of the workpeople they 
lead, but from their very raison d'etre hostile to those of the 
employers and the rest of the community. ... They have, 
through their command of money, the imposing aspect of 
their organisation, and partly, also, from the mistaken 
humanitarian aspirations of a certain number of literary 
men of good standing, a large army of literary talent which 
is prompt in their service on all occasions of controversy. 
They have their own press as a field for these exertions. 
Their writers have free access to some of the leading London 
journals. They organise frequent public meetings, at which 
paid speakers inoculate the working classes with their ideas, 
and urge them to dictate terms to candidates for Parliament. 
Thus they exercise a pressure upon members of Parliament, 
and those aspirant to that honour, out of all proportion to 
their real power, and beyond belief except to those who 
have had the opportunity of witnessing its effects. They 
have a standing Parliamentary Committee, and a pro- 
gramme ; and active members of Parliament are energetic 
in their service. They have the attentive ear of the Ministry 
of the day ; and their communications are received with 
instant and respectful attention. They have a large repre- 
sentation of their own body in London whenever Parliament 
is likely to be engaged in the discussion of the proposals 
they have caused to be brought before it. Thus, untram- 
melled by pecuniary considerations, and specially set apart 
for this peculiar work, without other clashing occupations, 
they resemble the staff of a well-organised, well-provisioned 
army, for which everything that foresight and preoccupation 
in a given purpose could provide, is at command." x It is 

1 " Statement as to Formation and Objects of the National Federation 
of Associated Employers of Labour," December n, 1873, reprinted by the 
Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress. This Federa- 
tion comprised in its ranks a large proportion of the great " captains 
of industry " of the time, including such shipbuilders as Laird and Har- 
land & Wolff ; such textile manufacturers as Crossley, Brinton, Marshall, 
Titus Salt, Akroyd, and Brocklehurst ; such engineers as Mawdsley, Son 
& Field, Combe, Barbour & Combe, and Beyer & Peacock ; such ironmasters 

328 Sectional Developments 

not surprising that the Parliamentary Committee of the 
Trades Union Congress, composed, as it was, of the " staff 
of leaders " referred to, should have had this involuntary 
tribute to their efficiency reprinted and widely circulated 
among their constituents. 

The student will form a more qualified estimate of the 
position in 1873-75 than either the elated Trade Unionists 
or the alarmed employers. In the first place, great as was 
the numerical expansion of these years, the reader of the 
preceding chapters will know that it was not without parallel. 
The outburst of Trade Unionism between 1830 and 1834 
was, so far as we can estimate, even greater than that 
between 1871 and 1875, whilst it was far more rapid in its 
development. There were, during the nineteenth century, 
three high tides in the Trade Unitfn history of our country, 
1833-34, J 872-74, and 1889-90. In the absence of complete 
and trustworthy statistics it is difficult to say at which of 
these dates the sweeping in of members was greatest. But it 
is easy to discern that the expansion of 1873-74 was marked 
by features which were both like and unlike those of its 

Like the outburst of 1833-34, the marked extension of 
Trade Unionism in 1872 reached even the agricultural 
labourers. For more than thirty years since the transporta- 
tion of the Dorchester labourers good times and bad had 
passed over their heads without resulting in any combined 
effort to improve their condition. There seems to have 
been a short-lived combination in Scotland in 1865. We 
hear of an impulsive strike of some Buckinghamshire 
labourers in 1867, which spread into Hertfordshire. A 
more effective Union was formed in Herefordshire in 1871, 
which pursued a quiet policy of emigration, and enrolled 
30,000 subscribers in half a dozen counties. But a more 

as David Dale and John Menelaus ; such builders as Trollope of London 
and Neill of Manchester, and such representatives of the great industrial 
peers as Sir James Ramsden, who spoke for the Duke of Devonshire, and 
Fisher Smith, the agent of the Earl of Dudley. 

The Farm Labourer 329 

energetic movement now arose. On February 7, 1872, 
the labourers of certain parishes of Warwickshire met at 
Wellesbourne to discuss their grievances. At a second 
meeting, a little later, Joseph Arch, a labourer of Barford, 
who owned a freehold cottage, and had become known 
as a Primitive Methodist preacher, made a speech 
which bore fruit. On the nth of March two hundred men 
resolved to strike for higher wages, namely, i6s. per week 
for a working day from 6 A.M. to 5 P.M. Unlike most 
strikes this one attracted from the first the favourable 
notice of the press. 1 Publicity brought immediate funds 
and sympathisers. On the 2Qth of March the inaugural 
meeting of the Warwickshire Agricultural Labourers' 
Union was held at Leamington, under the presidency 
of the Hon. Auberon Herbert, M.P., a donation of one 
hundred pounds being handed in by a rich friend. Through 
the eloquence, the revivalist fervour, and the untiring energy 
of Joseph Arch, the movement spread like wildfire among 
the rural labourers of the central and eastern counties. 

1 The immediate publicity given to the agitation was due, in the first 
place, to the sympathy of J. E. Matthew Vincent, the editor of the Leaming- 
ton Chronicle, and secondly, to the instinct of the Daily News, which 
promptly sent Archibald Forbes, its war correspondent, to Warwickshire, 
and " boomed " the movement in a series of special articles. A contem- 
porary account of the previous career of Joseph Arch is given by the Rev. 
F. S. Attenborough in his Life of Joseph Arch (Leamington, 1872; 37 pp.). 
See also The Revolt of the Field, by A. W. Clayden (1874), 234 pp. ; and 
"Zur Geschichte der englischen Arbeiterbewegung im Jahre 1872-1873," 
by Dr. Friedrich Kleinwachter in Jahrbiicher fur Nationalokonomie und 
Statistik, 1875, and Supplement I. of 1878; "Die jiingste Landarbeiter- 
bewegung in England," by Lloyd Jones, in Nathusius-Thiel's Landwirth- 
schaftliche Jahrbiicher, 1875 ; The Romance of Peasant Life, 1872, and The 
English Peasantry, 1872, by F. G. Heath ; The Agricultural Labourer, by 
F. E. Kettel, 1887 ; Joseph Arch, the Story of his Life, told by Himself, 1898 ; 
A History of the English Agricultural Labourer, by Dr. W. Hasbach, 1908 ; 
"The Labourers in Council," a valuable article in The Congregationalist, 
1872 ; " The Agricultural Labourers' Union," in Quarterly Review, 1873 ; 
"The Agricultural Labourers' Union," by Canon Girdlestone, in Mac- 
millan's Magazine, vol. xxviii. ; "The Agricultural Labourer," by F. 
Verinder, in The Church Reformer, 1892 ; and others in this magazine 
during 1891-93; Conflicts of Capital and Labour, by G. Howell, 1878 and 
1890 editions ; Labour Legislation, Labour Movements and Labour Leaders, 
by the same, 1902 ; and Village Trade Unions in Two Centuries, by 
Ernest Selley, 1919. 


330 Sectional Developments 

The mania for combination which came over the country 
population during the next few months recalls, indeed, the 
mushroom growth of the Grand National Consolidated 
Trades Union of forty years before. Within two months 
delegates from twenty-six counties met to transform the 
local society into a National Agricultural Labourers' Union, 
organised in district Unions all over the country, with a 
central committee at Leamington, which, by the end of 
the year, boasted of a membership of ruearly a hundred 
thousand. 1 

The organised Trade Unions rallied promptly to the 
support of the labourers, and contributed largely to their 
funds. The farmers met the men's demand by a wide- 
spread lock-out of Unionist labourers, which called forth 
the support of Trades Councils and individual societies all 
over the country. 2 George Ho well, then Secretary of the 

1 Other Labourers' Unions sprang up which refused to be absorbed in 
the National ; and the London Trades Council summoned a conference in 
March 1873 to promote unity of action. Considerable jealousy was 
shown of any centralising policy, and eventually a Federal Union of 
Agricultural and General Labourers was formed by half a dozen of the 
smaller societies, with an aggregate membership of 50,000. 

2 The Birmingham Trades Council, for instance, issued the following 
poster : 


" This question is to all lovers of freedom and peaceful progress, and 
it is left for them to say whether that spark of life and hope which has 
been kindled in the breasts of our toiling brothers in the agricultural 
districts shall be extinguished by the pressure of the present lock-out. 
The answer is No ! and the echo resounds from ten thousand lips. But 
let us be practical ; a little help is of more value than much sympathy ; 
we must not stand to pity, but strive to send relief. The cause of the agri- 
cultural labourer is our own ; the interests of labour in all its forms are 
very closely bound up together, and the simple question for each one is, 
How much can I help, and how soon can I do it ? If we stay thinking too 
long, action may come too late ; these men, our brethren, now deeply in 
adversity, may have fallen victims when our active efforts might have 
saved them. The strain upon the funds of their Union must be considerable 
with such a number thrown into unwilling idleness, and that for simply 
asking that their wages, in these times of dear food, might be increased 
from 133. to 143, per week. Money is no doubt wanted, and it is by that 
alone the victory can be won. Let us therefore hope that Birmingham 

The Revolt of the Field 331 

Parliamentary Committee, George Shipton, the Secretary 
of the newly revived London Trades Council, and many 
other leaders, gave up their nights and days to perfecting 
the labourers' organisations. The skilled trades, indeed, 
furnished many of the officials of the new Union. Joseph 
Arch found for his headquarters an able general secretary 
in Henry Taylor, a carpenter, whilst the Kentish labourers, 
organised in the separate Kent Union, enjoyed the services 
of a compositor. This help, together with the funds and 
countenance of influential philanthropists, made the out- 
burst less transient than that of 1833-34. I* 1 niany villages 
the mere formation of a branch led to an instantaneous rise 
of wages. But, as in 1833-34, tne audacity of the field 
labourer in imitating the combinations of the town artisan 
provoked an almost indescribable bitterness of feeling on 
the part of the squirearchy and their connections. The 

will once again come to the rescue, determined to assist these men to a 
successful resistance of the oppression that is attempted in this lock-out. 

" The great high priest and deliverer of this people now seeks our aid. 
We must not let him appeal to us in vain ; his efforts have been too noble 
in the past, the cause for which he pleads is too full of righteousness, and 
the issues too great to be passed by in heedless silence. Let us all to work 
at once. We can all give a little, and each one may encourage his neighbour 
to follow his example. The conflict may be a severe one. It is for freedom 
and liberty to unite as we have done. We have reaped some of the advan- 
tages of our Unions ; we must assist them to establish theirs, and not 
allow the ray of hope that now shines across the path of our patient but 
determined fellow-toilers to be darkened by the blind folly of their em- 
ployers, who, being in a measure slaves to the powers above them, would, 
if they could, even at their own loss, consign all below them to perpetual 
bondage. This must not be. We must not allow these men to be robbed 
of their right to unite, or their future may be less hopeful than their past. 
Let some one in every manufactory and workshop collect from those 
disposed to give, and so help to furnish the means to assist these men to 
withstand the powers brought against them, showing to their would-be 
oppressors that we have almost learned the need and duty of standing side 
by side until all our righteous efforts shall be crowned by victory. 

" All members of the Birmingham Trades Council are authorised to 
collect and receive contributions to the fund, and will be pleased to receive 
assistance from others. 

" By order of the Birmingham Trades Council, 

" W. GILLIVER, Secretary." 

332 Sectional Developments 

farmers, wherever they dared, ruthlessly " victimised " any 
man who joined the Union. It is needless to say that they 
received the cordial support of the rural magistracy. In 
aid of a lock-out near Chipping Norton, two justices, who 
happened both to be clergymen, sent sixteen labourers' 
wives, some with infants at the breast, to prison with hard 
labour, for " intimidating " certain non-Union men. An 
attempt to punish the leaders of a meeting at Farringdon, 
on the ground of " obstruction of the highway," was only 
defeated by bringing down an eminent Queen's Counsel 
from London to overawe the local bench. The " dukes " 
notably those of Marlborough and Rutland denounced the 
" agitators and declaimers " who had " too easily succeeded 
in disturbing the friendly feeling which used to unite the 
labourer and his employer in mutual feelings of generosity 
and confidence." Innumerable acts of petty tyranny and 
oppression proved how far the landed interest had lagged 
behind the capitalist employers in the matter of Freedom 
of Combination. Nor was the Established Church more 
sympathetic. At the great meeting held at Exeter Hall 
on behalf of the labourers, when the chair was taken by 
Samuel Morley, M.P., the only ecclesiastic who appeared on 
the platform was Archbishop (afterwards Cardinal) Manning. 
In fact, the spirit in which the rural clergy viewed this social 
upheaval is not unfairly typified by the public utterance of 
a learned bishop. On September 2, 1872, Dr. Ellicott, the 
Bishop of Gloucester, speaking at a meeting of the Gloucester 
Agricultural Society, significantly suggested the village 
horsepond as a fit destination for the " agitators," or dele- 
gates sent by the Union to open new branches. And the 
farmers, the squires, and the Church were supported by the 
army. When the labourers in August 1872 struck for an 
increase of wages, the officers, in Oxfordshire and Berk- 
shire, placed the soldiers at the disposal of the farmers for 
the purpose of getting in the harvest and so defeating the 

This insurrection of the village and the autocratic spirit 

Soldier Strike-breakers 333 

which it aroused in the owners of land and tithe had, we 
believe, a far-reaching political effect. With its results 
upon the agitation for Church disestablishment and the 
growing Radicalism of the counties we are not here con- 
cerned. We trace, however, from these months, the appear- 
ance in the Trade Union programme of the proposals relating 
to the Land Law Reform and the Summary Jurisdiction of 
the Magistrates, which seem, at first sight, unconnected 
with the grievances of the town artisan. But though the 
agricultural labourer had his effect upon the Trade Union 
Movement, Trade Unionism was not, at this time, able to 
do much for him. Funds and personal help were freely 
placed at his service by his brother Unionists. The minute- 
books and balance-sheets of the great Unions and the Trade 
Councils show how warm and generous was the response 
made to his appeal by the engineers, carpenters, miners, 
and other trades. The London Trades Council successfully 
exerted itself to stop the lending of troops to the farmers, 
and procured a fresh regulation explicitly prohibiting for 
the future such assistance " in cases where strikes or dis- 
putes between farmers and their labourers exist." 1 The 
public disapproval of the sentence in the Chipping Norton 
case was used by the Trade Union leaders as a powerful 
argument for the repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment 
Act. - 

But all this availed the agricultural labourer little. The 
feverish faith in combination as a panacea for all social ills 
gradually subsided. The farmers, after their first surprise, 
during which the labourers, in many counties, secured ad- 
vances of from eighteenpence to as much as four shillings 
per week, met the Union demands and successes by a stolid 
resistance, and took every opportunity to regain their ground. 
In 1874 the Agricultural Unions sustained their first severe 
defeat. Some of those in Suffolk asked for an advance of 

1 Queen's Regulations for the Army for 1873, Article 180 ; the whole 
correspondence is given in the Report of the London Trades Council. 
June 1873. 

334 Sectional Developments 

wages from 135. to 145. for a 54-hours week. The farmers' 
answer was an immediate lock-out, which was rapidly taken 
up throughout the Eastern and Midland counties, no fewer 
than 10,000 members of the Union being thus " victimised." 
The struggle had to be closed in July 1874, after an ex- 
penditure by the National Union of 21,365 in strike pay. 
After this the membership rapidly declined. Every winter 
saw the lock-out used as a means for smashing particular 
branches of the Union. And in this work of destruction 
the farmers were aided by their personal intimacy with the 
labourer. It was easy to drop into the suspicious mind of 
the uneducated villager a fatal doubt as to the real destina- 
tion of the pennies which he was sending away to the far- 
off central treasury. Nor was the Union organisation per- 
fect. Difficulties and delays occurred in rendering aid to 
threatened branches or victimised men. The clergyman, 
the doctor, and the village publican were always at hand 
to encourage distrust of the " paid agitator." Within a 
very few years most of the independent Unions had ceased 
to exist, whilst Arch's great national society had dwindled 
away to a steadily diminishing membership, scattered up and 
down the midland counties, in what were virtually village 
sick and funeral clubs. With the decline of prosperity of 
British farming, which set in about 1876-77, men were every- 
where dismissed, grass replaced grain over hundreds of 
thousands of acres, and the demand for agricultural labour 
fell off ; and even Joseph Arch had repeatedly to advise 
the local branches to acquiesce in lower wages. By 1881 
the National Union could claim only 15,000 members, and 
in 1889 only 4254^ 

We have, therefore, in the sudden growth and quick 
collapse of this revolt " of the field " a marked likeness to 
the meteoric career of the general Trades Unions of 1833-34. 

1 The rival Kent Union, which had become the Kent and Sussex 
Agricultural and General Labourers' Union, enrolling all sorts of labourers, 
claimed in 1889 still to have 10,000 members, with an annual income of 
i 0,000 a year, mostly disbursed in sick and funeral benefits. 

Co-operative Production 335 

But the expansion of the Trade Union Movement in 1871-75 
had another point of resemblance to previous periods of 
inflation. In 1871-75, as in 1833-34 an d in 1852, the project 
of recovering possession of the instruments of production 
seizes hold of the imagination of great bodies of Trade 
Unionists. Again we see attempts by trade organisations 
to establish workshops of their own. The schemes of Co- 
operative Production of 1871-75 bore more resemblance to 
those of 1852 than to Owen's crude communism. In the 
Trade Unionism of 1833-34 the fundamental Trade Union 
principle of the maintenance of the Standard of Life was 
overshadowed and absorbed by the Owenite idea of carrying 
on the whole industry of the country by national associa- 
tions of producers, in which all the workmen would be 
included. But in the more practical times of 1852 and 
1871-75 the project of " self -employment " remained strictly 
subordinate to the main functions of the organisation. 1 
Whatever visions may have been indulged in by individual 
philanthropists, the Trade Union committees of both these 
periods treated the co-operative workshop either as merely 
a convenient adjunct to the Union, or as a means of afford- 
ing to a certain number of its members a chance of escape 
from the conditions of wage-labour. 2 The failure of all 

1 See Die Strikes, die Co-operation, die Industrial Partnerships, by 
Dr. Robert Jannasch (Berlin, 1868; 66 pp.). 

2 Amid the great outburst of feeling in favour of Co-operative Produc- 
tion it is difficult to distinguish in every case between the investments of 
the funds of the Trade Unions in their corporate capacity, and the sub- 
scriptions of individual members under the auspices, and sometimes 
through the agency, of their trade society. The South Yorkshire Miners' 
Association used ^30,000 of its funds in the purchase of the Shirland 
Colliery in 1875, and worked it on account of the Association. In a very 
short time, however, the constant loss on the working led to the colliery 
being disposed of, with the total loss of the investment. The Northum- 
berland and Durham Miners in 1873 formed a " Co-operative Mining 
Company " to buy a colliery, a venture in which the Unions took shares, 
but which quickly ended in the loss of all the capital. Some of the New- 
castle engineers on strike for Nine Hours in 1871 were assisted by sym- 
pathisers to start the Ouseburn Engine Works, which came to a disastrous 
end in 1876. In 1875 the Leicester Hosiery Operatives' Union, having 
2000 members, began manufacturing on its own account, and bought up 
a small business. In the following year a vote of the members decided 

336 Sectional Developments 

these attempts belongs, therefore, rather to the history of 
Co-operation than to that of Trade Unionism. For our 
present purpose it suffices to note that the loss in these 
experiments of tens of thousands of pounds finally con- 
vinced the officials of the old-established Unions of the 
impracticability of using Trade Union organisations and 
Trade Union funds for Co-operative Production. The 
management of industry by associations of producers still 
remains the ideal of one school of co-operators, and still 
periodically captures the imagination of individual Trade 
Unionists. But other ideals of collective ownership of the 
means of production have displaced the Owenism of 1833-34 
and the " Christian Socialism " of 1852. Of co-operative 
experiments by Trade Societies, in their corporate capacity, 
we hear practically no more. 1 

against such an investment of the funds, and the Union sold out to a group 
of individuals under the style of the Leicester Hosiery Society. It became 
fairly successful, but scarcely a tenth of the shareholders were workers in 
the concern, and it was eventually merged in the Co-operative Wholesale 
Society. Innumerable smaller experiments were set on foot during 
these years by groups of Trade Unionists with more or less assistance from 
their societies, but the great majority were quickly abandoned as unsuc- 
cessful. In a few cases the business established still exists, but in every 
one of these any connection with Trade Unionism has long since ceased. 
In later years renewed attempts have been made by a few Unions. 
Several local branches of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, 
for instance, have taken shares in the Leicester Co-operative Boot and Shoe 
Manufacturing Society. The London Bassdressers, the Staffordshire 
Potters, the Birmingham Tinplate Workers, and a few other societies have 
also taken shares in co-operative concerns started in their respective 
trades. Full particulars will be found in the exhaustive work of Benjamin 
Jones on Co-operative Production, 1894. 

1 In one other respect the Trade Union expansion of 1872-74 resembled 
that of 1833-34. Both periods were marked by an attempt to enrol the 
women wage-earners in the Trade Union ranks. Ephemeral Unions of 
women workers had been established from time to time, only to collapse 
after a brief existence. The year 1872 saw the establishment of the oldest 
durable Union for women only the Edinburgh Upholsterers' Sewers' 
Society. Two years later Mrs. Paterson, the real pioneer of modern 
women's Trade Unions, began her work in this field, and in 1875 several 
small Unions among London Women Bookbinders, Upholsteresses, Shirt 
and Collar Makers, and Dressmakers were established, to be followed, in 
subsequent years, by others among Tailoresses, Laundresses, etc. Mrs. 
Emma Ann Paterson (nee Smith), who was born in 1848, the daughter of 
a London schoolmaster, served from 1867 to 1873 successively as an 

Arbitration 337 

On the whole the contrast between the Trade Union 
expansion of 1873-74 and that of 1833-34 is more significant 
than any likeness that may be traced between the two 
periods. The Trade Unionists of 1833-34 aimed at nothing 
less than the supersession of the capitalist employer ; and 
they were met by his absolute refusal to tolerate, or even 
to recognise, their organisation. The new feature of the 
expansion of 1873-74 was the moderation with which the 
workmen claimed merely to receive some share of the 
enormous profits of these good times. The employers, on 
the other hand, for the mj2rst part abandoned their objection 
to recognise the Union^, and even conceded, after repeated 
refusals, the principle of the regulation of industry by Joint 
Boards of Conciliation or impartial umpires chosen from 
outside the trade. From 1867 to 1875 innumerable Boards 
of Conciliation and Arbitration were established, at which 
representatives of the masters met representatives of the 
Trade Unions on equal terms. In fact, it must have been 
difficult for the workmen at this period to realise with what 
stubborn obstinacy the employers, between 1850 and 1870, 
had resisted any kind of intervention in what they had then 
regarded as essentially a matter of private concern. When 
the Amalgamated Society of Engineers offered, in 1851, to 
refer the then pending dispute to arbitration, the master 

Assistant Secretary of the Working Men's Club and Institute Union and 
the Women's Suffrage Association, and married, in 1873, Thomas Paterson, 
a cabinetmaker. On a visit to the United States she became acquainted 
with the " Female Umbrella Makers' Union of New York," and strove, on 
her return in 1874, to promulgate the idea of Trade Unionism among 
women workers in the South of England. After some newspaper articles, 
she set on foot the Women's Protective and Provident League (now the 
Women's Trade Union League), for the express purpose of promoting 
Trade Unionism, and established in the same year the National Union of 
Working Women at Bristol. From 1875 to 1886 she was a constant 
attendant at the Trades Union Congress, and was several times nominated 
for a seat on the Parliamentary Committee, at the Hull Congress heading 
the list of unsuccessful candidates. An appreciative notice of her life and 
work appeared in the Women's Union Journal on her death in December 
1886 ; see also Dictionary of National Biography, and Women in the Printing 
Trades edited by J. R. MacDonald (1904), pp. 36, 37. 

338 Sectional Developments 

engineers simply ignored the proposal. The Select Com- 
mittees of the House of Commons in 1856 and 1860 found 
the workmen's witnesses strongly in favour of arbitration, 
but the employers sceptical as to its possibility. Nor did 
the establishment of A. J. Mundella's Hosiery Board at 
Nottingham in 1860, and Sir Rupert Kettle's Joint Com- 
mittees in the Wolverhampton building trades in 1864, 
succeed in converting the employers elsewhere. But be- 
tween 1869 and 1875 opinion among the captains of industry, 
to the great satisfaction of the Trade Union leaders, gradu- 
ally veered round. " Twenty-five years ago," said Alex- 
ander Macdonald in 1875, " when we proposed the adoption 
of the principle of arbitration, we were then laughed to 
scorn by the employing interests. But no movement has 
ever spread so rapidly or taken a deeper root than that 
which we then set on foot. Look at the glorious state of 
things in England and Wales. In Northumberland the men 
now meet with their employers around the common board. 
... In Durhamshire a Board of Arbitration and Concilia- 
tion has also been formed ; and 75,000 men repose with 
perfect confidence on the decisions of the Board. There 
are 40,000 men in Yorkshire in the same position." 1 

But though the establishment, from 1869 onwards, of 
Joint Boards and Joint Committees represented a notable 
advance for the Trade Unions, and marked their complete 
recognition by the great employers, yet this victory brought 
results which largely neutralised its advantages. 2 As in the 

1 Speech quoted in Capital and Labour, June 16, 1875. 

2 It must be remembered that the words " arbitration " and " con- 
ciliation " were at this time very loosely used, often meaning no more than 
a meeting of employers and Trade Union representatives for argument and 
discussion. The classic work upon the whole subject is Henry Crompton's 
Industrial Conciliation, 1876. It receives detailed examination in the 
various contributions of Mr. L. L. Price, notably his Industrial Peace (1887) 
and the supplementary papers entitled " The Relations between Industrial 
Conciliation and Social Reform," and " The Position and Prospects of 
Industrial Conciliation," published in the Statistical Society's Journal for 
June and September 1890 (vol. liii. pp. 290 and 420). For an American 
summary may be consulted Joseph D. Weeks' Report on the Practical 
Working of Arbitration and Conciliation in the Settlement of Differences 

Joint Boards 339 

case of the political triumphs, the men gained their point 
at the cost of adopting the intellectual position of their 
opponents. When the representatives of the employers and 
the delegates of the men began to meet to discuss the future 
scale of wages, we see the sturdy leaders of many Trade 
Union battles gradually and insensibly accepting the 
capitalists' axiom that wages must necessarily fluctuate 
according to the capitalists' profits, and even with every 
variation of market prices. 1 At Darlington, for instance, 
we watch the shrewd leader of the employers, David Dale, 
succeeding in completely impressing John Kane and a 
whole subsequent generation of ironworkers with a firm 

between Employers and Employees in England (Harrisburg, 1879), and his 
paper on Labour Differences (New York, 1886). The working of arbitra- 
tion is well set forth in Strikes and Arbitration, by Sir Rupert Kettle, 1866 ; 
in A. J. Mundella's evidence before the Trade Union Commission, 1868 ; 
in his address, Arbitration as a Means of Preventing Strikes (Bradford, 1868 ; 
24 pp.) ; and in the lecture by Dr. R. Spence Watson entitled " Boards of 
Arbitration and Conciliation and Sliding Scales," reported in the 
Barnsley Chronicle, March 20, 1886. An early account of the Nottingham 
experience is contained in the paper by E. Renals, " On Arbitration in the 
Hosiery Trades of the Midland Counties " (Statistical Society's Journal, 
December 1867, vol. xxx. p. 548). See also the volume edited by Dr. 
Brentano, Arbeitseinstellungen und Fortbildung des Arbeitvertrags (Leipzig, 
1890), and Zum socialen Frieden, by Dr. von Schulze Gaevernitz (Leipzig, 
2 vols., 1892). The whole subject of the relation between Trade Unions 
and employers is fully dealt with in our Industrial Democracy. For the 
latest British Official reports on the subject see Cd. 6603, 6952, and 9099. 

1 The course of prices after 1870 demonstrates how disastrously this 
principle would have operated for the wage-earners had it been universally 
adopted. Between 1870 and 1894 the Index Number compiled by the 
Economist, representing the average level of market prices, fell steadily 
from 2996 to 2082, irrespective of the goodness of trade or the amount 
of the employers' profits. Any exact correspondence between wages and 
the price of the product would exclude the wage-earners, as such, from all 
share in the advantages of improvements in production, cheapening of 
carriage, and the fall in the rate of interest, which might otherwise be 
turned to account in an advance in the workman's Standard of Life. On 
the other hand, in an era of rising prices, when these influences are being 
more than counteracted by currency inflation, increasing difficulty of pro- 
duction, or a world-shortage of supply, an automatic correspondence be- 
tween money wages and the cost of living would be useful, if it did not 
lead to the implication that the only ground for an advance in wages was 
an increase in the cost of living. The workmen have still to contend for a 
progressive improvement of their Standard of Life whatever happens to 

340 Sectional Developments 

belief in the principle of regulating wages according to the 
market price of the product. The high prices of 1870-73' 
removed the last scruples of the workmen as to the new 
doctrine. In 1874 a delegate meeting of the Northumber- 
land Miners decided to use the formal expression of the 
Executive Committee, 1 " that prices should rule wages " 
a decision expressly repeated by delegate meetings in 1877 
and 1878. In 1879, when prices had come tumbling down, 
we find the Executive still maintaining that " as an Associa- 
tion we have always contended that wages should be based 
on the selling price of coal." 2 In an interesting letter 
dated February i, 1878, Burt, Nixon, and Young (then the 
salaried officers of the Northumberland Miners), in describ- 
ing the negotiations for a Sliding Scale, take occasion to 
mention that they had agreed with the employers that there 
should be no Minimum Wage. 3 And though the practical 
difficulties involved in the establishment of automatic wage- 
adjustments hindered the spread of Sliding Scales to other 
industries, the principle became tacitly accepted among 
whole sections of Trade Unionists. The compulsory main- 
tenance, in good times and bad, of the workman's Standard 
of Life was thus gradually replaced by faith in a scale of 
wages sliding up and down according to the commercial 
speculations of the controllers of the market. 

The new doctrine was not accepted without vigorous 
protests from the more thoughtful working-men leaders. 
Lloyd Jones, writing in 1874, warns " working men of the 
danger there is in a principle that wages should be regu- 
lated by market prices, accepted and acted on, and therefore 
presumably approved of by Trades Unions. These bodies, 
it is to be regretted, permit it in arbitration, accept it in 
negotiations with their employers, and thus give the highest 

1 Executive Circular, October 12, 1874. 

a Ibid., October 21, 1879 ; as to the Sliding Scales actually adopted, see 
Appendix II. 

8 Miners' Watchman and Labour Sentinel, February 9, 1878 a quasi- 
official organ of the Northern Miners, which was published in London 
from January to May 1878. 

Sliding Scales 341 

sanction they can to a mode of action most detrimental to 
the cause of labour. . . . The first thing, therefore, those who 
manage trade societies should* settle is a minimum, which 
they should regard as a point below which they should never 
go. ... Such a one as will secure sufficiency of food and 
some degree of personal and home comfort to the worker ; 
not a miserable allowance to starve on, but living wages. . . . 
The present agreements they are going into on fluctuating 
market prices is a practical placing of their fate in the 
hands of others. It is throwing the bread of their children 
into a scramble of competition where everything is decided 
by the blind and selfish struggles of their employers." x "I 
entirely agree," writes Professor Beesly, " with an admirable 
article by Mr. Lloyd Jones 2 in a recent number of the Beehive, 
in which he maintained that colliers should aim at establish- 
ing a minimum price for their labour, and compelling their 
employers to take that into account as the one constant 
and stable element in 1 all their speculations. All workmen 
should keep their eyes fixed on this ultimate ideal." 3 
Nor was this view confined to friendly allies of the Trade 

1 " Should Wages be Regulated by Market Prices ? " by Lloyd Jones, 
Beehive, July 18, 1874 ; see also his article in the issue for March 14, 1874. 

2 Lloyd Jones, one of the ablest and most loyal friends of Trade Union- 
ism, was born at Bandon, in Ireland, in 1811, the son of a small working 
master in the trade of fustian-cutting. Himself originally a working 
fustian-cutter, Lloyd Jones became, like his father, a small master, but 
eventually abandoned that occupation for journalism. He became an 
enthusiastic advocate of Co-operation, and in 1850 he joined Thomas 
Hughes and E. Vansittart Neale in a memorable lecturing tour through 
Lancashire. A few years later we find him in London, in close touch with 
the Trade Union leaders, with whom he was on terms of intimate friendship. 
From the establishment of the Beehive in 1861 he was for eighteen years a 
frequent contributor, his articles being uniformly distinguished by literary 
ability, exact knowledge of industrial facts, and shrewd foresight. From 
1870 until his death in 1886 he was frequently selected by the various 
Unions to present their case in Arbitration proceedings. At the General 
Election of 1885 he stood as candidate for the Chester-le-Street Division 
of Durham, where he was opposed by both the official Liberals and the 
Conservatives, and was unsuccessful. In conjunction with J. M. Ludlow, 
he wrote The Progress of the Working Classes, 1867, and afterwards pub- 
lished The Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, to which a memoir by 
his son, Mr. W. C. Jones, has since been prefixed. 

8 Beehive, May 16, 1874. 

342 Sectional Developments 

Union Movement. We shall have occasion to notice how 
forcibly both the Cotton Operatives and the Boilermakers 
protested against the dependence of wages on the fluctua- 
tions of the market. Alexander Macdonald himself, though 
he approved of Joint Committees, instinctively maintained 
an attitude of hostility to the innovating principle of a 
sliding scale. 1 And, as we shall hereafter see, the conflict 
between Macdonald's teaching with regard to both wages 
and the hours of labour, and the economic views of the 
Northumberland and Durham leaders, presently divided 
the organised miners into two hostile camps. 

The Trade Union world of 1871-75 was therefore more 
complicated, and presented many more difficult internal 
problems than was imagined, either by the alarmed employers 
or the triumphant Trade Unionists. It needed only the 
stress of hard times to reveal to the Trade Unionists them- 
selves that they were not the compact and well-organised 
army described by the Rational Federation of Associated 
Employers, but a congeries of distinct sections, pursuing 
separate and sometimes antagonistic policies. 

The expansion of trade, under- the influence of which 
Trade Unionism, as we have seen, reached in 1873-74 one 
of its high-water marks, came suddenly to an end. The 
contraction became visible first in the coal and iron indus- 
tries, those in which the inflation had perhaps been 'greatest. 2 
The first break occurred in February 1874, when the coal- 
miners of the East of Scotland submitted to a reduction 
of a shilling a day. During the rest of the year prices and 
wages came tumbling down in both these staple trades. In 

1 This information we owe to personal friends and colleagues of Mac- 
donald, Thomas Burt, M.P., and Ralph Young, who, as we have seen, 
differed from him on this point, and also on the allied question of regula- 
tion of output according to demand, to be preached by the coal-miners as 
well as by the colliery companies, which Macdonald, throughout his whole 
career, persistently advocated. See, for instance, his speech at the local 
conference on the Depression of Trade, Bristol Mercury, February 13, 1878. 

2 A useful summary of these events is given in Dr. Kleinwachter's 
pamphlet, Zur Geschichte der englischen Arbeiterbewegung in den Jahren 
1871 und 1874 (Jena, 1878 ; 150 pp.). 

The Slump 343 

January 1875 a furious conflict broke out in South Wales, 
where many thousand miners and ironworkers refused to 
submit to a third reduction of ten per cent. The struggle 
dragged on until the end of May, when work was resumed 
at a reduction, not 'of ten, but of twelve and a half per 
cent, with an understanding that " any change in the wage 
rates . . . shall depend on a sliding scale of wages to be 
regulated by the selling price of coal." * In the following 
year the depression spread to the textile industries, and 
gradually affected all trades throughout the country. The 
building trades were, however, still prosperous ; and the 
Manchester Carpenters chose this moment for an aggressive 
advance movement. The disastrous strike that followed 
early in 1877, and lasted throughout the year, resulted in 
the virtual collapse of the General Union of Carpenters and 
Joiners, at that time the third in magnitude among the 
societies in the building trades, and left the Manchester 
building operatives in a state of disorganisation from which 
they never fully recovered. In April 1877 the Clyde ship- 
wrights demanded an increase of wages, to which the 
employers replied by a general lock-out of all the operatives 
engaged in the shipbuilding yards, in the expectation that 
this would cause pressure on the shipwrights to withdraw 
their claim. For more than three months the main industry 
of the Clyde was at a standstill, the dispute being eventually 
ended, in September 1877, by submission to the arbitration 
of Lord Moncreiff, in which the men were completely 
worsted. In July 1877 a conflict broke out between the 
stonemasons and their employers, in which Bull & Co., 
the contractors for the new law courts in London, caused 
the bitterest resentment by importing German workmen as 
blacklegs. The demand had originally been for an increase 
of wages and reduction of hours for the London men ; but 
as the obstinate struggle progressed it became, in effect, 
a battle between the Stonemasons' Union and the federated 
master builders throughout the country. Large levies were 

1 Beehive, June 5, 1875. 

344 Sectional Developments 

raised, and over 2000 collected from other trade societies ; 
but in March 1878, after eight months' conflict, the rem- 
nant of the strikers returned to work on the employers' 
terms. The cotton trade, too, was made the scene of one 
of the greatest industrial struggles on record. After several 
minor reductions of wages during 1877, which resulted in 
local strikes, in March 1878, as the Times reports, " all 
the way through a centre of 70 miles, where 250,000 cotton 
operatives are employed, notices have been posted giving 
a month's notice of ten per cent reduction in wages." A 
colossal strike ensued, which brought into prominence the 
rival theories of the cotton operatives and their employers. 
It was conceded by the men that the mill-owners were losing 
money, and that some change had to be made. But as the 
employers admitted that their losses arose from the glutted 
state of the market, the operatives contended that the 
proper remedy was the cessation of the over-production ; 
and they therefore offered to accept the 10 per cent reduc- 
tion on condition that the mills should only work four days 
a week. A heated controversy ensued, but the mill-owners 
persisted in their demand for the unconditional surrender 
of the men, and refused all proposals for arbitration. The 
cause of the men was unfortunately prejudiced by serious 
riots at Blackburn, at which the house of Colonel Raynsford 
Jackson, the leader of the associated employers, was looted 
and burnt. After ten weeks' struggle the men went in on 
the employers' terms. 1 

1 The operatives' case is well put in the Weavers' Manifesto of June 

" Fellow- workers We are and have been engaged during the past 
nine weeks in the most memorable struggle between Capital and Labour 
in the history of the world. One hundred thousand factory workers are 
waging war with their employers as to the best possible way to remove the 
glut from an overstocked cloth market, and at the same time reduce the 
difficulties arising from an insufficient supply of raw cotton. To remedy 
this state of things the employers propose a reduction of wages to the 
extent of ten per cent below the rate of wages agreed upon twenty-five 
years ago. On the other hand, we have contended that a reduction in 
the rate of wages cannot either remove the glut in the cloth market or 
assist to tide us over the difficulty arising from the limited supply of raw 

Widespread Ruin 345 

The great struggles of 1875-78 were only the precursors 
of a general rout of the Trade Union forces. The increasing 
depression of trade culminated during 1878-79 in a stag- 
nation which must rank as one of the most serious which 
has ever overtaken British industry. The paralysis of 
business was intensified, especially in Scotland, by the 
widespread ruin caused by the failure of the City of 
Glasgow Bank. From one end of the kingdom to the 
other great firms became bankrupt, mines and ironworks 
were stopped, ships lay idle in the ports, and a universal 
feeling of despondency and distrust spread like a blight into 
every corner of the industrial world. Every industry had 
its crowds of unemployed workmen, the proportion of 
men on the books of the Trade Unions rising, in some 
cases, to as much as 25 per cent. The capitalists, as 
might have been expected, chose the moment of trial for 
attempting to take back the rest of the concessions ex- 
torted from them in the previous years. " It has appeared 
to employers of labour/' stated the private circular issued 
by the Iron Trade Employers' Association in December 
1878, " that the time has arrived when the superfluous wages 

material. However, this has been the employers' theory, and at various 
periods throughout the struggle we have made the following propositions 
as a basis of settlement of this most calamitous struggle : 

" i. A reduction of ten per cent, with four days' working, or five per 
cent with five days' working, until the glut in the cloth market and the 
difficulties arising from the dearth of cotton had been removed. 

" 2. To submit the whole question of short time or reduction, or both, 
to the arbitrement of any one or more impartial gentlemen. 

"3. To submit the entire question to two Manchester merchants or 
agents, two shippers conversant with the Manchester trade, and two 
bankers, one of each to be selected by the employers and the other by the 
operatives, with two employers and two operatives, with Lord Derby, the 
Bishop of Manchester, or any other impartial gentleman, as chairman, or, 
if necessary, referee. 

"4. To split the difference between us, and go to work unconditionally 
at a reduction of five per cent. 

"5. Through the Mayor of Burnley, to go to work three months at 
a reduction of five per cent, and if trade had not sufficiently improved at 
that time, to submit to a further reduction. 

" 6. And lastly, to an unconditional reduction of seven and a half 
per cent." 

346 Sectional Developments 

which have been dissipated in unproductive consumption 
must be retrenched, and when the idle hours which have 
been unprofitably thrown away must be reclaimed to indus- 
try and profit by being redirected to reproductive work." 
The result is reflected in the Trade Union reports. " All 
over the United Kingdom," states the Monthly Report of 
the Amalgamated Carpenters for January 1879, " notices 
of reductions in wages and extended hours of labour come 
pouring in from employers with an eagerness and audacity 
which contrast strangely with the lessons of forbearance 
and moderation so incessantly dinned into the ears of the 
British workman in happier times." "At no time in our 
history," reports the Executive Council of the Amalga- 
mated Society of Engineers, " have we had such a number 
of industrial disturbances throughout the country. Bad 
trade has prevailed ; and our employers, now better organised 
than ever before, seem to have made it their aim to raise 
as many points of contention with us as ever possible. In 
one place sweeping reductions of wages would be carried 
out or attempted ; and in others the rates paid for overtime 
were sought to be reduced, while in many cases the hours 
of labour have been attacked, and in the Clyde district 
successfully, three hours being, as a result, added to the 
week's work all over Scotland. . . . Another notable 
feature of the depression has been the continued oppression 
by the employers of the men in the most submissive districts, 
where conciliatory measures were adopted, and where little 
objection was made to any innovation. The Clyde district 
has been a notable example of this fact, passing in the first 
instance through two considerable reductions of wages 
almost passively, only to be almost immediately after the 
victims of desultory attacks upon the hours question. 
Irregular attack appears almost to have been the system 
adopted by the employers in preference to the development 
of any general movement by their Associations." x The 

1 Amalgamated Society of Engineers, etc., Abstract Report of the 
Council's Proceedings, 1878-79, p. 18. 

Backwardation 347 

years 1878-1880 witnessed, accordingly, a great increase 
in the number of strikes in nearly all trades, 1 most of which 
terminated disastrously for the workmen. Sweeping reduc- 
tions of wages occurred in all industries. The Northumber- 
land miners, whose normal day's earnings had been gs. ijd. 
in March 1873, found themselves reduced, in November 
1878, to 45. gd. per day, and in January 1880 to 43. 4d. 
Scotch mechanics suffered an even more sudden reduction. 
The Glasgow stonemasons, for instance, who had been earning 
9d. and lod. per hour during 1877, dropped by the end of 
1878 to 6d. per hour, and found it difficult to find employ- 
ment even at that figure. A still more dangerous encroach- 
ment was made in connection with the hours of labour. 
Employers on all sides sought to lengthen the working 
day. The mechanics on the Clyde lost the fifty-one hours 
week which they had won. The Iron Trades Employers' 
Association, whose circular we have quoted, resolved upon 
a general attack on the Nine Hours Day. " It has been 
resolved," writes the secretary, " by a large majonty of the 
Iron Trades Employers' Association, supported by a general 
agreement among other employers, to give notice in their 
workshops that the hours of labour shall be increased to 
the number prevailing before the adoption of the nine hours 
limit." 2 The concerted action of the associated employers 
was, however, baulked by the energy of John Burnett, then 
General Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. 
Placed in possession of the Circular for a couple of hours, 

1 See The Strikes of the Past Ten Years, by G. Phillips Bevan (March 
1880, Stat. Soc. Journal, vol. xliii. pp. 35-54). We have ascertained that 
the strikes mentioned in the Times between 1876 and 1889 show the follow- 
ing variations 


1877 . 

1878 . 

1879 . 

1880 . 



1881 . . 20 

1882 . . 14 

1883 . . 26 

1884 . . 31 

1886 ... 24 

1887 ... 27 

1888 ... 37 

1889 . . .in 

1885 . . 20 

Secret circular from the London Secretary (Sidney Smith) of the Iron 
Trades Employers' Association, December 1878 ; republished in Circular 
of Amalgamated Society of Engineers, January 3, 1879, and in Report of 
Executive Council for 1878-79, p. 31. 

348 Sectional Developments 

he promptly reproduced it in an ably reasoned appeal to 
his own members, which was sent broadcast to the press. 
Publicity proved fatal to the employers' plans, and no 
uniform or systematic action was taken. Isolated attempts 
were, however, made in all directions by the master engineers 
to revert to fifty-seven or fifty-nine hours per week ; and 
only by the most strenuous action was the normal fifty- 
four-hours week retained in " society shops." 

Other trades were not equally successful in maintaining 
even their nominal day. In many towns the carpenters 
had two or three hours per week added to their working 
time. 1 More serious was the fact that in numerous minor 
trades the very conception of a definitely fixed normal day 
was practically lost. Even among such well-organised 
trades as the Engineers, Carpenters, and Stonemasons the 
practice of systematic overtime, coupled with the prevalence 
of piecework, reduced the normal day to a nullity. 2 In the 
abundant Trade Union records of these years we watch the 
progress and results of these economic disasters. The 
number of men drawing the out-of-work benefit steadily 
rises, until the societies of Ironfounders and Boilermakers, 
which in 1872-73 had scarcely I per cent unemployed, 
had in 1879 over 20 P er cen ^ on their funds. The Amal- 
gamated Society of Engineers paid away, under this one 
' head, during the three years 1878-80, a sum of no less than 
287,596. The Operative Plumbers had to exclude, in the 

1 At Manchester, Bolton, Ramsbottom, Wrexham, Falmouth, Alder- 
shot, etc., the hours were thus lengthened. 

2 To the ordinary reader it may be desirable to explain that the Unions 
have, in most trades, succeeded in establishing the principle of the payment 
of higher rates for overtime. But in most cases this is limited to workers 
paid by time, no extra allowance being given to the man working by the 

It will be obvious that if a workman, ostensibly enjoying a Nine Hours 
Day, is habitually rsquired to work overtime, and is paid only at the normal 
piecework rate for his work, he obtains no advantage whatever from the 
nominal fixing of his hours of labour. To many thousands of men in the 
engineering and building trades the nominal maintenance of the Nine 
Hours Day meant, in 1878 and succeeding years, no more than this. See 
for the whole subject of " the Normal Day," Industrial Democracy, by 
S. and B. Webb. 

The Losses 349 

two years 188082, nearly a third of their members for non- 
payment of contributions. The Ironfounders, who in 1876 
had accumulated a fund of over 5 per member, paid away 
every penny of it by the end of 1879, and were only saved 
from actual stoppage by the numerous loans made to the 
society by its more prosperous members. The Stonemasons' 
Society drained itself equally dry, and resorted to the same 
expedient to avoid default. The Scottish societies had to 
meet the crisis in an even more aggravated form. The total 
collapse which followed the City of Glasgow Bank failure 
absolutely ruined all but half a dozen of the Scotch Trade 
Unions, a blow from which Trade Unionism in Scotland did 
not recover for the rest of the century. 

The year 1879, indeed, was as distinctly a low- water 
mark of the Trade Union Movement as 1873-74 registered 
a full tide of prosperity. The economic trials through which 
Trade Unionism passed in 1879 are only to be paralleled by 
those through which it had gone in 1839-42. But the solid 
growth which we have described prevented any such total 
collapse as marked the previous periods. The depression 
of 1879 swept, it is true, many hundreds of trade societies 
into oblivion. The Unions of agricultural labourers, which 
had sprung up with such mushroom rapidity, either collapsed 
altogether or dwindled into insignificant benefit clubs. Up 
and down the country the hundreds of little societies in 
miscellaneous trades which had flourished during the good 
years, went down before the tide of adversity. Widespread 
national organisations shrank up practically into societies 
of local influence, concentrated upon the strongholds of 
their industries. The great National Union of Miners, estab- 
lished, as we have seen, in 1862-63, survived, after 1879, 
only in Northumberland, Durham, and Yorkshire. Its 
younger rival, the Amalgamated Association of Miners, 
which had, up to 1875, dominated South Wales and the 
Midlands, broke up and disappeared. The National Amal- 
gamated Association of Ironworkers, also established in 
1862, which in 1873 numbered 35,000 members in all parts 

35 Sectional Developments 

of the country, was reduced in 1879 to 1400 members, 
confined to a few centres in the North of England. 1 In 
some districts, such as South Wales, Trade Unionism practi- 
cally ceased to exist. 2 The total membership of the Trade 
Union Movement returned, it is probable, to the level of 
1871. But despite all these contractions the backbone of 
the movement remained intact. In the engineering and 
building trades the great national societies, though they were 
denuded of their reserve funds, retained their membership. 
Nor was it only the trade friendly societies that weathered 
the storm. The essentially trade organisations of the cotton 
operatives, and of the Northumberland and Durham miners, 
maintained their position with only a temporary contrac- 
tion of membership. The political organisation of the move- 
ment was, moreover, unaffected. The local Trades Councils 
went on undisturbed. The annual Trades Union Congress 
continued to meet, and to appoint its standing Parliamentary 
Committee. In short, though many individual Unions dis- 
appeared, and many others saw their balances absorbed and 
their membership reduced, the trials of 1879 proved that 
the Trade Union Movement was at last beyond all danger 
of destruction or collapse, and that the Trade Union organisa- 
tion had become a permanent element in our social structure. 
We see, therefore, that the work which Allan and Apple- 
garth had done towards consolidating the* Trade Union 
Movement had not been fruitless. But along with increas- 
ing consolidation and definiteness of purpose had come an 
increasing differentiation of policy and interest. Each trade 

1 The lowest point reached in the statistics of the annual Trades 
Union Congresses was in 1881, when the delegates claimed to represent 
little more than a third of the numbers of 1874. These statistics of mem- 
bership are, however, in many respects misleading. The Congress of 1879 
was attended by a much smaller number of delegates than any Congress 
since 1872, and the number of Unions represented was also the smallest 
since that date. 

2 " Four years ago," writes the President of the Bristol Coopers' Society 
in 1878, " upwards of 40,000 workmen were in combination in these 
valleys [South Wales], and to-day not a single Union is in existence 
throughout the entire district" (Paper at Local Conference on the 
Depression of Trade, Bristol Mercury, February 13, 1878). 

Sectionalism 351 

was working out its own industrial problems in its way. 
Whilst the miners and the cotton operatives, for instance, 
were elaborating their own codes of legislative regulation of 
the conditions of labour, the engineering and building trades 
were becoming pledged to the legislative laissez-faire of 
their leaders. Under the influence of the able spokesmen 
of the northern counties the coal-miners and iron-workers 
were accepting the principle that wages must follow prices ; 
whilst the cotton operatives, and to some extent the 
boilermakers, 1 were making a notable stand for the con- 
trary view that the Standard Rate of Wages should be a 
first charge on industry. And while the miners and cotton 
operatives regarded their organisations primarily as societies 
for trade protection, there was growing up among the suc- 
cessors of the Junta in the iron and building trades a fixed 
belief that the really " Scientific Trade Unionism " con- 
sisted in elaborate friendly benefits and judiciously invested 
superannuation funds. So long as trade was expanding, 
and each policy was pursued with success, no antagonism 
arose between the different sections. The cotton opera- 
tives cordially approved the Nine Hours Movement of the 
engineers, whilst these, in their turn, supported the Factory 
Bill desired by the Lancashire spinners. The miners ap- 
plauded the gallant stand made by the cotton operatives 
against the reductions of 1877-79, whilst the cotton opera- 
tives saw no objection to the acquiescence of the miners in 
the dependence of wages on prices. And though all Trade 
Unions regarded with respect the high contributions and 
accumulated funds of the Amalgamated Engineers, they were 
equally respectful of the success with which the Northumber- 
land coal-miners, through bad times and good, had for half 
a generation maintained a strong Union with exclusively 
trade objects. Thus the divergences of policy, which were 

1 See the injunctions of the General Secretary, Monthly Report, March 
1862 ; Annual Reports, 1882 and 1888. Robert Knight consistently 
opposed "violent fluctuations of wages, at one time a starvation pittance, 
at another exorbitantly high." 

352 Sectional Developments 

destined from 1885 onward to form the battle-ground be- 
tween what has been once more termed the " Old " Unionism 
and the " New," did not at first prevent cordial co-opera- 
tion in the common purposes of the Trade Union Movement. 
It was in the dark days after 1878-79, when every Union 
suffered reverses, that internal discontent as to Trade Union 
policy became acute, and a new spirit of criticism arose. 
Not until the purely trade society, on the one hand, had 
been found lacking in stability, and the trade friendly 
society, on the other, had been convicted of apathy in trade 
matters ; not until the Lancashire and Yorkshire coal- 
miners had been driven to protest against the constant 
reductions brought about by the sliding scales, and some of 
the leaders of the Lancashire cotton operatives hesitated 
in their advocacy of the legal day ; finally, not until a 
powerful section of the miners opposed any further exten- 
sion of the Mines Regulation Acts, and a section of the 
engineers and building operatives began to advocate the 
legal fixing of their own labour day do we find it declared 
that " the two systems cannot co-exist ; they are con- 
tradictory and opposed." x 

In more than one direction, therefore, the depression 
of trade was bringing into prominence wide divergences 
of opinion upon Trade Union policy. But the adverse 
industrial circumstances of the time were revealing, in 
certain industries, a more invidious cleavage. As manufac- 
turing processes develop and change with the progress of 
invention and the substitution of one material for another 
iron for wood in shipbuilding, for instance the skilled 
members of one trade find themselves superseded for cer- 
tain work by the members of another. A modern Atlantic 
liner, practically a luxuriously-fitted, electric-lighted float- 
ing hotel, built of rolled steel plates, would obviously not 
fall within the work of a shipwright like Peter the Great. 
But the old-fashioned shipwright naturally refused to re- 
linquish without a struggle the right to build ships of every 

1 Trade Unionism, New and Old, by George Howell, M.P. (1891), p. 235. 

Demarcation Disputes 353 

kind. The depression of 1879 was severely felt in the ship- 
building and engineering trades, every one of which had a 
large percentage of its members unemployed. The societies 
found, as we have seen, the out-of-work donation a serious 
drain on their funds, and were inclined to look more narrowly 
into cases of " encroachment " upon the work which each 
regarded as the legitimate sphere of its own members. 
Disputes between Union and Union as to overlap and 
apportionment of work become, in these years, of frequent 
occurrence ; and to the standing conflict with the employers 
was added embittered internecine warfare between the men 
of one branch of trade and those of another. The Engineers 
complained of the monopoly which the Boilermakers main- 
tained of all work connected with angle-iron. The Pattern- 
makers protested vigorously against the Carpenters presum- 
ing to make any engineering patterns. At Glasgow the 
Brassfounders objected to the Ironmoulders continuing to 
make the large brass castings which the workers in brass 
had at first been unable to undertake. The line of de- 
marcation in iron shipbuilding between the work ol a ship- 
wright and that of a boilermaker was a constant source of 
friction. The disregard of the ordinary classification of 
trades by the authorities of the Royal Dockyards created 
great discontent among the Engineers, who saw shipwrights 
put to do fitters' work, and Broadhurst brought the matter 
in 1882 before the House of Commons. 1 Nor were the 
disputes confined to the puzzling question of the lines of 
demarcation between particular trades. In 1877 the re- 
cently formed Union of " Platers' Helpers " complained 
bitterly to the Trades Union Congress that the whole force 
of the Boilermakers' Society had been used to destroy their 

1 House of Commons Journals, Motion of March 14, 1882 : " That in 
the opinion of this House it is detrimental to the public, service, fatal to 
the efficiency of our war ships, and unjust to the fitters in Her Majesty's 
Dockyards, that superintending leading men should be placed in authority 
over workmen with whose trades they have no practical acquaintance, or 
that men should be put to execute work for which they are unsuited either 
by training or experience." See Henry Broadhurst, the Story of his Life 
from a Stonemason's Bench to the Treasury Bench, by himself, 1901. 


354 Sectional Developments 

organisation. The Platers' Helpers, it may be explained, 
constitute a large class of labourers in shipbuilding yards, 
who are usually employed and paid, not by the owners of 
the yards, but by members of the Boilermakers' Society. 
In the building trades numerous cases of friction were 
occurring between bricklayers and masons on the one 
hand, and the builders' labourers on the other. The intro- 
duction of terra cotta led to a whole series of disputes 
between the bricklayers and the plasterers as to the trade 
to which the new work properly belonged. Disputes of 
this kind were, of course, no new thing. What gave the 
matter its new importance was the dominance of the great 
trade friendly societies in the skilled occupations. The loss 
of employment by individual members became in bad times 
a serious financial drain on Unions giving out-of-work pay. 
In place of the bickerings of individual workmen we have 
the conflicts of powerful societies, each supporting the claim 
of its own members to do the work in dispute. " When 
men are not organised in a Trade Union," says the general 
secretary of a large society, " these little things are not 
taken much notice of, but the moment the two trades 
become well organised, each trade is looking after its own 
particular members' interests. . . ." l 

We have in our Industrial Democracy analysed the 
history, character, and extent of this rivalry among com- 
peting branches of the same trade. Here we need do no 
more than record its result in weakening the bond of union 
between powerful sections of the Trade Union world. The 
local Trades Councils, which might have attained a posi- 
tion of political influence, were always being disintegrated 
by the disputes of competing trades. The powerful Shipping 
Trades Council of Liverpool, for instance, which played an 
important part in Samuel Plimsoll's agitation for a new 
Merchant Shipping Act, was broken up in 1880 by the 

1 Evidence of Mr. Chandler, then general secretary of Amalgamated 
Society of Carpenters and Joiners (Labour Commission, 1892, vol. iii. 
Q. 22,014). 

Failure of Federations 355 

quarrel between the separate societies of Shipwrights, Ship- 
joiners, and House Carpenters over ship work. The minutes 
of every Trades Council, especially those in seaports, relate 
innumerable well-intentioned attempts to settle similar 
disputes, almost invariably ending in the secession of one or 
other of the contending Unions. These quarrels prevented, 
moreover, the formation of any effective general federation. 
An attempt was made in 1875 by the officers of the Amal- 
gamated Engineers', Boilermakers', Ironf ounders', and Steam- 
Engine Makers' Societies to establish a federation for mutual 
defence against attacks upon the Nine Hours System. 
After a few months, the disputes between the Engineers 
and Boilermakers on the one hand, and between the mem- 
bers of the Amalgamated Society and the Steam-Engine 
Makers' Society on the other, led to the abandonment of 
the attempt. 1 A similar movement initiated by the Boiler- 
makers in 1881 equally failed to get established. 2 

Wider federations met with no better success than those 
confined to the engineering and shipbuilding trades. The 
Trades Union Congress repeatedly declared itself in favour 
of universal brotherhood among Trade Unionists, and the 
formation of a federal bond between the different societies. 
But the inherent differences between trade and trade, the 
numerous distinct types into which societies were divided, 
the wide divergences as to Trade Union policy which we 
have been describing, and, above all, the rivalry for members 
and employment between competing societies in the same 
industry, rendered any universal federation impossible. 
After the Sheffield Congress in 1874, representatives of the 
leading Unions in the iron and building trades set on foot 

1 Abstract Report of Amalgamated Engineers, June 30, 1876. 

2 In 1890, however, Robert Knight, who had been throughout the 
foremost worker for federation, succeeded in establishing a Federation of 
the Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades of the United Kingdom, described 
in our Industrial Democracy, from which the Amalgamated Society of 
Engineers has held aloof. A large part of the work of the Federal Executive 
consisted, for many years, of adjusting disputes between Union and Union 
with regard to overlap and apportionment of work. For the whole subject, 
see our Industrial Democracy, 1897. 

356 Sectional Developments 

a " Federation of Organised Trade Societies/' which all 
Unions were invited to join for mutual defence. But the 
Cotton-spinners, with their preference for legislative regula- 
tion, refused to have anything to do with a federation 
which contemplated nothing but strike benefits. The whole 
scheme was, indeed, more a project of certain Trade Union 
officials than a manifestation of any general feeling in 
favour of common action. Each trade was, as we have 
said, working out its own policy, and attending almost 
exclusively to its own interests. Under such circumstances 
any attempt at effective federation must necessarily have 
been still-born. Nevertheless the Edinburgh Congress of 
1879 called for a renewed attempt ; and the Parliamentary 
Committee circulated to every Trade Union in the kingdom 
their proposed rules for another " Federation of Organised 
Trade Societies." To this invitation not half a dozen replies 
were received. 1 At the Congress of 1882, when the resolu- 
tion in favour of a universal federation was again proposed, 
it found little support. The representatives of the local 
Trades Councils urged that these bodies furnished all that 
was practicable in the way of federation. Thomas Ashton, 
the outspoken representative of the cotton-spinners, was 
more emphatic. " For years," he said, " the Parliamentary 
Committee and others had been trying to bring about such 
an organisation as that mentioned in the resolution, but it 
had been found utterly impossible. ... It was all nonsense 
to pass such a resolution. It was impossible for the trades of 
the country to amalgamate, their interests were so varied and 
they were so jealous with regard to each other's disputes." 2 
The foregoing examination of the internal relations of 
the. Trade Union world between 1875 and 1879, though in- 
complete, demonstrates the extent to which the movement 
during these years was dominated by a somewhat narrow 
" particularism." From 1880 to 1885 the various societies 

1 When, in 1890, the project of universal federation was revived, the 
draft rules of 1879 were simply reprinted. 

* Report of Manchester Congress, 1882 ; see also History of the British 
Trades Union Congress, by W. J. Davis, vol. i., 1910. 

Universal Sectionalism 357 

were absorbed in building up again their membership and 
balances, which had so seriously suffered during the con- 
tinued depression. The annual Trades Union Congress, the 
Parliamentary Committee, and the political proceedings of 
these years constitute practically the only common bond 
between the isolated and often hostile sections. In all in- 
dustrial matters the Trade Union world was broken up into 
struggling groups, destitute of any common purpose, each, 
indeed, mainly preoccupied with its separate concerns, and 
frequently running counter to the policy or aims of the rest. 
The cleavages of interest and opinion among working men 
proved to be deeper and more numerous than .any one 
suspected. In the following chapter we shall see how an 
imperfect appreciation of each other's position led to that 
conflict between the "Old Unionists" and the "New" 
which for some years bade fair to disintegrate the whole 
Labour Movement 



SINCE 1875 the Trades Union Congress has loomed before 
the general public with ever-increasing impressiveness as 
the representative Parliament of the Trade Union world. 
To the historical student, on the other hand, it has, during 
the last fifty years, been wanting in significance as an index 
to the real factors of the Trade Union Movement. Between 
1871 and 1875, the period of the struggle for complete 
legalisation, the Congress concentrated the efforts of the 
different sections upon the common object they had all at 
heart. On the accomplishment of that object it became 
for ten years little more than an annual gathering of Trade 
Union officials, in which they delivered, with placid unanim- 
ity, their views on labour legislation and labour politics. 1 

1 See the History of the British Trades Union Congress, by W. J. Davis, 
of which two volumes have been issued by the Parliamentary Committee 
(1910 and 1916). William John Davis, one of the most successful Trade 
Union administrators, was born in 1848, at Birmingham. In 1872, when 
the National Society of Amalgamated Brassworkers was established in a 
trade hitherto entirely unorganised, he became General Secretary, a post 
which, except for one short interval, he has ever since retained. Within 
six months he obtained from the employers the 15 per cent increase which 
they had refused to the unorganised men, and established branches through- 
out the kingdom ; and presently he completed the difficult and laborious 
task of constructing a list of prices for all brasswork, for which he obtained 
the employers' recognition. He was elected to the Birmingham School 
Board in 1876, and to the Town Council in 1880. In 1883 he accepted ap- 
pointment as Factory Inspector, but six years later returned to his former 


The Trades Union Congress 359 

From 1885 to 1890 we shall watch the Congress losing its 
decorous calm, and gradually becoming the battle-field of 
contending principles and rival leaders. But throughout its 
whole career it has, to speak strictly, been representative 
less of the development of Trade Unionism as such, than 
of the social and political aspirations of its leading members. 
The reader of the Congress proceedings between 1875 
and 1885 would, for instance, fail to recognise our descrip- 
tionfof the characteristics of the movement in these years. 
The predominant feature of the Trade Union world between 
1875 and 1885 was, as we have seen, an extreme and 
complicated sectionalism./ It might therefore have been 
expected that the annuaf meeting of delegates from different 
trades would have been made the debating ground for all 
the moot points and vexed questions of Trade Unionism, not 
to say the battle-field of opposing interests. But though 
the Trades Union Congress, like all popular assemblies, 
had its stormy scenes and hot discussions, from 1875 
to 1885 these episodes arose only on personal questions, 
such as the conduct of individual members of the committee 
or the bona fides of particular delegates. On all questions 
of policy or principle before the Congress the delegates were 
generally unanimous. This was brought about by the de-/. 
liberate exclusion of all Trade Union problems from the' 1 
agenda. The relative merits of collective bargaining and 
legislative regulation were, during these years, never so 
much as discussed. The alternative types of benefit club 
and trade society were not compared. The difficulties of 
overlap and apportionment of work were not even referred 

post at the urgent request of the workmen, whose Union had in his absence 
sunk almost to nothing, a condition from which he was able quickly to 
restore it to far more than its highest previous strength ; and to take on, 
in addition, the secretaryship of the Amalgamated Metal Wire and Tube 
Makers' Society. He was made a J.P. in 1906. Since 1881 he has been 
elected twenty-six times to the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades 
Union Congress. He is the author, in addition to the History of the British 
Trades Union Congress, of The Token Coinage of Warwickshire and Nine- 
teenth-Century Token Coinage (The Life Story of W. J. Davis, by W. B. 
Dalley, 1914). 

360 The Old Unionism and the New 

to. No mention was made of Sliding Scales, Wage-Boards, 
Piecework Lists, or other expedients for avoiding disputes. 
Piecework itself, when introduced by a delegate in 1876, 
was dropped as a dangerous topic. The disputes between 
Union and Union were regarded by the Committee as out- 
side the proper scope of Congress. 1 In short, the knotty 
problems of Trade Union organisation, the divergent views 
as to Trade Union policy, the effect on Trade Unionism of 
different methods of remuneration all the critical issues of 

\ ! industrial strife were expressly excluded from the agenda of 

V the Congress. 

For the narrow limits thus set to the functions of the 
Congress there was an historical reason. Arising as it did 
between 1868 and 1871, when the one absorbing topic was 
the relation of Trade Unionism to the law, it had retained 
the character then impressed upon it of an exclusively 
political body. For many years its chief use was to give 
weight to the Parliamentary action of the standing com- 
mittee, whose influence in the lobby of the House of 
Commons was directly proportionate to the numbers they 
were believed to represent. Publicity and advertisement, 
the first requisites of a successful Congress, were worse 
than useless without unanimity of opinion. The deliberate 
refusal of the Trade Union leaders to discuss internal 
problems in public Congress under such circumstances was 
not surprising. Most men in their position would have 
hesitated to let the world know that the apparent solidarity 
of Trade Unionism covered jealous disputes on technical 
questions, and fundamental differences as to policy. They 
easily persuaded themselves that a yearly meeting of 
shifting delegates was fitted neither to debate technical 
questions nor to serve as a tribunal of appeal. But these 
difficulties could have been overcome. The quinquennial 
delegate meeting of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers 

1 In 1878, for instance, the Parliamentary Committee resolved that 
Congress ought not to interfere either between the English and Scottish 
Tailors' Societies or between the Boilermakers and the Platers' Helpers. 

The Drawback of Publicity 361 

secures absolute frankness of discussion by the exclusion of 
reporters ; and the frequent national conferences of miners 
achieve the same end by supplying the press with their 
own abstract of the proceedings. The Miners' Conference 
of 1863, which we have already described, had shown, too, 
how successfully a large conference of workmen could 
resolve itself, for special questions, into private com- 
mittees, the reports being laid before the whole conference 
at its public sittings a device not yet adopted by the 
Trades Union Congress. And the London Society of Com- 
positors, which is governed practically by mass meetings, 
had, for over half a century, known how to combine detailed 
investigation of complicated questions with Democratic de- 
cisions on principles of policy, by appointing special com- 
mittees to report to the next subsequent members' meeting. 
The fact that no such expedients were suggested shows that 
in these years the jealousy of most workmen of outside 
interference and their apathy about questions unconnected 
with their immediate trade interests, made their leaders 
unwilling to trust them with real opportunities for full 
Democratic discussion. 

We shall therefore not attempt to reconstruct the Trade 
Union Movement from the proceedings of its annual con- 
gresses. The following brief analysis of their programmes 
and the achievements of the Parliamentary Committee is 
meant to show, not the facts as to Trade Union organisation 
throughout the country, with which we have already dealt, ^ 
but the political and social ideals that filled the minds of 
the more thoughtful and better educated working men, and 
the rapid transformation of these ideals in the course of 
the last decade. 1 

1 The Congress, from 1871, annually elected a Parliamentary Committee 
of ten members and a secretary. The members of the Committee were 
always chosen from the officials of the more important Unions, with a 
strong tendency to re-elect the same men year after year. Between 1875 
and 1889 the composition of the Committee was, in fact, scarcely changed,) 
except through death or the promotion of members to Government 
appointments. George Potter was secretary from 1869-71 ; George 
Odger in that year ; and George Howell, afterwards M.P., from 1872-75. 

N 2 

362 The Old Unionism and the New 

The mantle of the Junta of 1867-71 had, by 1875, fallen 
upon a group of able organisers who, for many years, 
occupied the foremost place in the Trade Union world. 
Between 1872 and 1875 Allan and Applegarth were replaced 
by Henry Broadhurst, John Burnett, J. D. Prior, and 
George Shipton. 1 These leaders had moulded their met 
and policy upon those of the able men who preceded 
It was they, indeed, aided by Alexander Macdonald 
Thomas Burt, who had actually carried through the final 
achievement of 1875. Like Allan, Applegarth, and Guile, 
they belonged either to the iron or the building trades, and 
were permanent officials of Trade Union organisations. A 
comparison of the private minutes of the Parliamentary 
Committee between 1875 and 1885 with those of the Con- 
ference of Amalgamated Trades of 1867-71 reveals how 
exactly the new " Front Bench " carried on the traditions 
of the Junta. We see the same shrewd caution and practical 
opportunism. We notice the same assiduous lobbying in 
the House of Commons, and the same recurring deputations 
to evasive Ministers. For the first few years, at least, we 
watch the Committee in frequent consultation with the same 
devoted legal experts and Parliamentary friends. 2 Through 

Henry Broadhurst was for fourteen years annually re-elected secretary 
without a contest, temporarily ceding the post, whilst Under Secretary of 
State for the Home Department in 1886, to George Shipton. He was 
succeeded by Charles Fenwick, M.P., from 1890-93; then followed S. 
Woods, M.P., from 1894-1904; W. C. Steadman, M.P., from 1905-10; 
and the Right Honourable C. W. Bowennan, M.P., from 1911 onwards. 

1 Odger died in 1877, Guile in 1883, and Coulson (who had retired 
many years before) in 1893. 

* To the counsels of Frederic Harrison, E. S. Beesly, H. Crompton, and 
A. J. Mundella was, from 1873, frequently added that of Mr. (afterwards 
Justice) R. S. Wright, who rendered invaluable service as a draughtsman. 
Henry Crompton supplied us with the following account of the subsequent 
separation between the Positivists and the Trade Union leaders : 

" In the year 1881 the connection of the Parliamentary Committee 
with the Positivists was modified. There was not the same occasion for 
their services as there had been. After 1 883, in which year Mr. F. Harrison 
and Mr. H. Crompton attended the Congress by invitation, the connection 
ceased altogether, though there was no breach of friendly relations. Til 
1 88 1 there had been entire agreement between them both as to policy and 
means of action. The policy of the Positivists had been to secure complete 

Trade Union Politics 


skilful guidance and indefatigable activity of Henry 
Jroadhurst the political machinery of the Trade Union 
[ovement was maintained and even increased in efficiency, 
during these years the occupants of the " Front Bench " 
led to give so decisive a lead to the Labour Movement as 
predecessors had done, the fault lay, not in the men 
in the machinery, but rather in the programme which 

set themselves to carry out. 

This programme, laid before all candidates for the House 
>f Commons at the General Election of 1874, was based, as 
>hn Prior subsequently declared, on the principle " that 
exceptional legislation affecting working men should be 
swept away, and that they should be placed on precisely 

independence for workmen and their legitimate combinations ; to 
them more respected and more conscious of their own work ; to lift 
sm to a higher moral level ; that they should become citizens ready and 
to perform all the duties of citizenship. The means employed was 
i consolidate and organise the power of the Trades Societies, through the 
itutions of the annual Congress and its Parliamentary Committee ; to 
this power, as occasion served, for the general welfare as well as for 
le interests. That the measures adopted or proposed by the Congress 
should be thoroughly discussed in the branches, and delegates well posted 
in the principal questions. To express it shortly organisation of collective 
labour and political education of individual workmen. 

" The condition of this effective force was that, while it was being used 
in furtherance of political action, it should be kept quite clear and inde- 
pendent of political parties. The divergence came with the advent of the 
Gladstonians to office. The Liberal Government began a policy of coercion 
in Ireland. Combination was to be put down by the very same mechanism 
which had been invented to repress labour combinations by the law of 
conspiracy. The very ruling of Baron Bramwell as to the Tailors' strike 
was employed to concoct a law to convict Mr. Parnell and his coadjutors. 
As a result law was laid down by the Irish judges as to political combina- 
tions, which is binding in England, and has still to be resisted or abolished. 
The Positivists endeavoured to the utmost of their ability to rouse the 
working classes to a sense of the danger of these proceedings, and to offer 
an uncompromising resistance to the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. 
The Parliamentary Committee would have none of it. They no doubt 
believed that the interests of their clients would be best served by a 
narrower policy, by seeking the help and favour of the eminent statesmen 
in office. Instead of a compact, powerful force, holding the balance be- 
tween the parties and the key of the situation, dictating its terms, they 
preferred to be the tag end of a party. In the end they did not get much, 
but the Congress was successfully captured and muzzled by the Gladstonian 

364 The Old Unionism and the New 

the same footing as other classes of the community." 1 Its 
main items were the repeal of the hated Criminal Law 
Amendment Act of 1871, and the further legalisation of 
Trade Unionism. The sweeping triumphs of 1875, and the 
acceptance by the Conservative Government of the pro- 
posals of the Junta, denuded the programme for subsequent 
years of its most striking proposals. There remained over 
in this department certain minor amendments of law and 
procedure which occupied the attention of the Committee 
for the next few years, and were gradually, by their exer- 
tions, carried into effect. 2 

But one great disability still lay upon working men as 
such. By the common law of England a person is liable 
for the results, not only of his own negligence, but also 
for that of his servant, if acting within the scope of his 
employment. The one exception is that, whereas to a 
stranger the master is liable for the negligence of any person 
whom he employs, to his servant he is not liable for the 
negligence of a fellow-servant in common employment. By 
this legal refinement, which dates only from 1837, and which 
successive judicial decisions have engrafted upon the common 
law, a workman who suffered injury through the negligence 
of some other person in the same employment was pre- 
cluded from recovering that compensation from the common 
employer which a stranger, to whom the same accident 
had happened, could claim and enforce. 3 If by the error 
of a signalman a railway train met with an accident, all the 

1 Report of Trades Union Congress, Dublin, 1880, p. 15. 

1 The working of the Trade Union Act of 1871 revealed some technical 
defects in the law, which were remedied by an amending Act in 1876 (39 
and 40 Vic. c. 22). Rules for the execution of the Employers and Work- 
men Act were framed by the Lord Chancellor in the same year. 

8 This defence of "common employment," which practically deprived 
the workman in large undertakings of any remedy in case of accidents 
arising through negligence in the works, was first recognised in the case of 
Priestly v. Fowler in 1837 (3 Meeson and Welby). Not until 1868 did the 
House of Lords, as the final Court of Appeal, extend it to Scotland. The 
growth of colossal industrial undertakings, in which thousands of workmen 
were, technically, " in common employment," made the occasional harsh- 
ness of the law still more invidious. 

Employers' Liability 365 

injured passengers could obtain compensation from the 
railway company ; but the engine-driver and guard were 
expressly excluded from any remedy. What the workman 
demanded was the abolition of the doctrine of " common em- 
ployment," and the placing of the employee upon exactly the 
same footing for compensation as any member of the public. 
By the influence of the Miners' National Union and the 
Amalgamated Society of the Railway Servants (established 
in 1872) the removal of this disability was, from the first, 
placed in the foreground of the Trade Union programme. 
Year after year Employers' Liability Bills were brought in 
by the Trade Union representatives in the House of Com- 
mons, only to be met by stubborn resistance from the 
capitalists of both parties. Through the pertinacity of 
Henry Broadhurst a partial reform 1 was obtained from 
Gladstone's Government in 1880, in spite of the furious 
opposition of the great employers of labour sitting on both 
sides of the House. The responsibility of the employer for 
insuring his workmen against the risks of their calling was, 
for the first time, clearly recognised by Parliament. The 
report of the Parliamentary Committee for 1880 claimed 
that the main battle on the subject had been fought, and 
that " time and opportunity only were now wanting for 
the completion of this work." Since then the promotion 
of claims for compensation for accidents has been one of 
the most important functions of Trade Unions ; and many 
of the societies, such as the Bricklayers and Boilermakers, 
have recovered thousands of pounds for injured members or 
their relatives. 2 But the doctrine of " common employ- 

1 Act 43 and 44 Vic. c. 52 (1880). 

2 The annual Parliamentary returns for the next fifteen years showed 
that between three and four hundred cases came into court every year, the 
amount of compensation actually awarded reaching between ^7000 and 
^8000. But a large number of cases were compromised, or settled without 
litigation. Meanwhile the relative number of accidents diminished. 
Whereas in 1877 one railway employee in 95 was more or less injured, in 
1889 the proportion was only one in 195. Whereas between 1873 and 1880 
one coal-miner in 446 met his death annually, between 1881 and 1890 the 
proportion was only one in 519; although there was apparently less 
improvement, if any, as regards non-fatal accidents in the mine. 

366 The Old Unionism and the New 

ment," modified by this Act, was by no means abolished. 
Employers, moreover, were allowed to induce their work- 
people to " contract out " of the provisions of the Act. 1 
An Employers' Liability Bill, the last remnant of the demands 
of the Junta, remained, therefore, from 1872 onward a per- 
manent item in the Trade Union programme down to 1896. 

With the exception of this one proposal the Parliament- 
ary programme of the Trade Union world was framed, in 
effect, by the New Front Bench. Curiously devoid of interest 
or reality, it is important to the political student as showing 
to what extent the thoughtful and superior workman had, 
at this time, imbibed the characteristic ideas of middle- 
class reformers. 

The programme of the Parliamentary Committee between 
1875 and 1885 falls mainly under three heads. We have 
first a group of measures the aim of which was the demo- 
cratisation of the electoral, administrative, and judicial 

1 By " contracting out " was meant an arrangement between employer 
and employed by which the latter relinquish the rights conferred upon 
them by the Act, and often also their rights under the Common Law. The 
Act was silent on the subject ; but the judges decided, to the great surprise 
and dismay of the Trade Union leaders, that contracting out was permis- 
sible (see Griffiths v. Earl of Dudley, 9, Queen's Bench Division, 35). The 
usual form of " contracting out " was the establishment of a workman's 
insurance fund to which the workmen were compelled to subscribe, and to 
which the employer also contributed. Among the coal-miners, those of 
Lancashire, Somerset, and some collieries in Wales generally contracted 
out. The employees of the London and North-Western, and London and 
Brighton Railway Companies also contracted out. In one or two large 
undertakings in other industries a similar course was followed. But in 
the vast majority of cases employers did not resort to this expedient. 
Particulars are given in the Report and Evidence of the Select Committee on 
Employers' Liability, 1866 ; the publications of the Royal Commission on 
Labour, 1891-94; and Miners' Thrift and Employers' Liability, by G. L. 
Campbell (Wigan, 1891) ; and our Industrial Democracy. 

In 1893-94 a further amending Bill passed the House of Commons 
which swept away the doctrine of common employment, and placed the 
workman with regard to compensation on the same footing as any other 
person. A clause making void any agreement by which the workman 
forewent his right of action, or "contracted out," was rejected by the 
House of Lords, and the Bill was thereupon abandoned. The question 
was settled in 1896 by the passage, under the Unionist Government, of 
the Workmen's Compensation Act, giving compensation in all cases, 
irrespective of the employers' default. 

Law Reform 367 

machinery of the State. Another set of reforms had for 
their end the enabling of the exceptionally thrifty or excep- 
tionally industrious man to rise out of the wage-earning 
class. A third group of proposals aimed at the legal regu- 
lation of the conditions of particular industries. 

Complete political Democracy had been for over a century 
the creed of the superior workmen. It was therefore not 
unnatural that it should come to the front in the Trades 
Union Congress. What appears peculiar is the form which 
this old-standing faith took in the hands of the Front Bench. 
The Trade Union leaders of 1837-42 had adopted enthusi- 
astically the " Six Points " of the Charter. Even the sober 
Junta of 1867-71 had sat with Karl Marx on the committee 
of the " International," in the programme of which Universal 
Suffrage was but a preliminary bagatelle. To the Front 
Bench of 1875-85 Democracy appeared chiefly in the guise 
of the Codification of the Criminal Law, the Reform of the 
Jury System, the creation of a Court of Criminal Appeal, 
and the Regulation of the Summary Jurisdiction of the 
Magistracy a curious group of law reforms which it is 
easy to trace to the little knot of barristers who had stood 
by the Unions in their hour of trial. 1 We do not wish to 
depreciate the value of these proposals, framed in the 
interests of all classes of the community ; but they were 
not, and probably were never intended to be, in any sense 
a democratisation of our judicial system. 2 When the Con- 

1 The legal advisers of the Junta realised that the triumph of 1875, 
though it resulted in a distinct strengthening of the Trade Union position, 
was mainly a moral victory. Though Trade Unions were made legal, the 
law of conspiracy was only partially reformed, whilst that relating to 
political combinations, unlawful assemblies, sedition, etc., remained, as it 
still remains, untouched. Expert lawyers knew in how many ways 
prejudiced tribunals might at any time make the law oppressive. The 
legal friends of Trade Unionism desired, therefore, to utilise the period of 
political quiet in simplifying the criminal law, and in removing as much of 
the obsolete matter as was possible. And though State Trials recom- 
menced in Ireland in 1881, and criminal prosecutions of Trade Unionists 
continued in England down to 1891, the interval had been well spent in 
clearing away some of the grosser evils. 

2 In the proposed reform of the Jury laws, for instance, the Parlia- 
mentary Committee for several years did not venture to ask explicitly for 

368 The Old Unionism and the New 

gress dealt with electoral reform it got no further than the 
assimilation of the county and borough franchise already 
a commonplace of middle-class Liberalism. The student of 
Continental labour movements will find it difficult to believe 
that in the representative Congress of the English artisans, 
amendments in favour of Manhood Suffrage were even as 
late as 1882 and 1883 rejected by large majorities. 1 Nor 
did the Parliamentary Committee put even the County 
Franchise into their own programme until it had become 
the battle-cry of the Liberal party at the General Election 
of 1880. The Extension of the Hours of Polling becomes a 
subject of discussion from 1878 onward, but the Payment 
of Election Expenses does not come up until 1883, 
Payment of Members not until 1884. 

Scarcely less significant in character were the measures 
of social reform advocated during these years. The pro- 
^minent Trade Unionists had been converted, as we have 
l already had occasion to point out, to the economic Individ- 
ualism which at this time dominated the Liberal party. 
A significant proof of this unconscious conversion is to be 
found in the unanimity with which a Trades Union Congress 
could repeatedly press for such " reforms " as Peasant 
Proprietorship, the purchase by the artisan of his own 
cottage, the establishment of " self-governing workshops/' 
the multiplication of patents in the hands of individual 
workmen, and other changes which would cut at the root 
of Trade Unionism or any collective control of the means of 
production. For whatever advantages there might be in 
turning the agricultural labourer into a tiny freeholder, it is 
obvious that under such a system no Agricultural Labourers' 

that payment of jurymen which alone would enable working men to serve, 
and contented themselves with suggesting a lowering of the qualification 
for juryman. In 1876, indeed, John Burnett, then a prominent member 
of the Committee, strongly opposed the Payment of Jurymen on the ground 
that it might create a class of professional jurors (Trades Union Congress 
Report, 1876, p. 14). 

1 See, for instance, the report of the 1876 Congress, p. 30 ; that of the 
1882 Congress, p. 37 ; that of the 1883 Congress, p. 41 ; and Hisiory of the 
British Trades Union Congress, by W. J. Davis, vol. i., 1910. 

Particularism in Politics 369 

Union could exist. However useful it may be to make 
the town artisan independent of a landlord, it has been 
proved beyond controversy that wage-earning owners of 
houses lose that perfect mobility which enables them, 
through their Trade Union, to boycott the bad employer or 
desert the low-paying district. And we can imagine the 
dismay with which the leaders of the Nine Hours Move- 
ment would have discovered that any considerable propor- 
tion of the engineering work of Newcastle was being done 
in workshops owned by artisans whose interests as capitalists 
or patentees conflicted with the common interests of all 
the workers. 

In no respect, however, does the conversion of the Trade 
Union leaders to middle-class views stand out more clearly 
than in their attitude to the clamour from the workers in 
certain industries for the legal protection of their Standard 
of Life. From time immemorial one of the leading tenets of 
Trade Unionism has been the desirability of maintaining 
by law the minimum Standard of Life of the workers, and 
it was still steadfastly held by two important sections of 
the Trade Union world, the Cotton Operatives and the Coal- 
miners. But to the Parliamentary Committee of 1875-85, 
as to the Liberal legislators, every demand for securing the 
conditions of labour by legislation appeared as an invidious 
exception, only to be justified by the special helplessness 
or incompetency of the applicants. Nevertheless, many of 
the trades succeeded in persuading Congress to back up the 
particular sectional legislation they desired. The Tailors 
asked, on the one hand, for the extension of the Factory 
Acts to home workers, and, on the other, for compensation 
out of public funds when interfered with by the sanitary 
inspector. The Bakers complained with equal pertinacity 
of the lack of public inspection of bakehouses, and of the 
hardships of their regulation by the Smoke Prevention 
Acts. The London Cabmen sought the aid of Congress, not 
against their employers, the cab proprietors, but against 
the public. The men in charge of engines and boilers 

370 The Old Unionism and the New 

demanded that no one should be allowed to work at their 
trade without obtaining from the Government a certificate 
of competency. In the absence of any fixed or consistent 
idea of the collective interest of the wage-earning class, or 
of Trade Unionists as such, every proposal that any section 
demanded for itself was accepted with equanimity by the 
Congress, and passed on to the Parliamentary Committee 
to carry out, however inconsistent it might be with the 
general principles that swayed their minds. 1 

It is not difficult to understand why, with such a pro- 
gramme, the Trade Union world failed, between 1876 and 
1885, to exercise any effective influence upon the House of 
Commons. A few concessions to the wage-earners were, 
indeed, obtained from the Government. The Employers' 
Liability Act of 1880, to which we have already referred, 
represented, in spite of all its deficiencies, a new departure 
of considerable importance. Useful little clauses protecting 
the interests of the wage-earners were, through Broadhurst's 
pertinacity, inserted in Chamberlain's Bankruptcy Act and 
in his Joint Stock Companies Act. 2 But it was left to 
Charles Bradlaugh, who had never been a Trade Unionist, 
to initiate the useful law prohibiting the payment of wages 
in public-houses, though when it was introduced the Parlia- 
mentary Committee (observing that it was unnecessary in 

1 In this connection may be mentioned the extensive agitation pro- 
moted by Samuel Plimsoll for further legislation to prevent the loss of life 
at sea. At the 1873 Trades Union Congress Plimsoll distributed copies of 
his book, Our Merchant Seamen, and enlisted, during the next three years, 
practically the whole political force of the Trade Union Movement in 
support of his Merchant Shipping Acts Amendment Bill. The " Plimsoll 
and Seamen's Fund Committee," of which George Ho well became secre- 
tary, received large financial help from the Unions, the South Yorkshire 
Miners' Association voting, in 1873, a levy of a shilling per member, and 
contributing over ^1000. The Parliamentary Committee gave Plimsoll's 
Bill a place in their programme for the General Election of 1874, and this 
Trade Union support contributed largely to Plimsoll's success in passing 
a temporary Act in 1875, and permanent legislation in 1876, against the 
combined efforts of a strong Conservative Government and the shipowners 
on both sides of the House. (See Labour Legislation, Labour Movements, 
and Labour Leaders, by G. Howell, 1902.) 

* Congress Reports, 1882 and 1883. 

The Parliamentary Committee 371 

respect of organised trades) gave it a mild support. Brad- 
laugh it was, too, who in 1887 got passed the amendment 
of the law against Truck a subject which the Parliamentary 
Committee had, in 1877, dismissed from their programme 
on the ground that they were unable, in the trades of which 
they had knowledge, to find sufficient evidence of its neces- 
sity. 1 But the failure of the Parliamentary Committee to 
induce the Government of the day to legislate for wage- 
earners as such was naturally most patent in that group 
of reforms which dealt with the legal regulation of the 
conditions of labour. To the -great consolidating Factory 
Bill of 1878 they found only four small amendments to 
propose ; and of these only one was carried. 2 The " Sweat- 
ing System " of home work against which the Tailors and 
Bootmakers were suggesting stringent but, as we venture 
to think, ill-considered legislation was permitted to expand 
free from all regulation. The bakehouses, too, were allowed 
to slip virtually out of inspection. Deputation after depu- 
tation waited on the Home Secretary to press for an increase 
in the number of factory inspectors, only to be met with 
the apparently unanswerable argument that it would cost 
money which the poor taxpayers could ill spare, until the 
astute and practical leaders of the Lancashire Cotton Opera- 
tives grew tired of the monotonous regularity with which 
their resolutions in favour of further factory inspection and 
more stringent regulations of the conditions of their trade 
were passed by Congress, and the little assistance which 
this endorsement procured for them. A " Northern Counties 
Factory Act Reform Association " was established in 1886, 
to do the work which the Trades Union Congress and its 
Parliamentary Committee had failed to accomplish. We 
have, in fact, only one important achievement of the Parlia- 
mentary Committee to record in this department of social 
reform. For years Congress had passed emphatic resolu- 

1 Parliamentary Committee's Report, September 17, 1877. 

2 That extending to factory scales and measures the provisions of the 
Weights and Measures Act relating to inspection, etc. 

372 The Old Unionism and the New 

tions in favour of the selection of practical working men as 
Factory Inspectors. Great was the j ubilation at the appoint- 
ment, in 1882, of J. D. Prior, General Secretary of the 
Amalgamated Society of Carpenters, and a member of the 
Parliamentary Committee, to the post of Inspector. 1 

In matters of more general interest the Trade Union 
leaders were not more successful, though the attempt to 
reform the law and its administration resulted in some 
minor improvements. The first outcome of the projects 
for law reform so dear to the Congresses of 1876-80 was 
the Justices' Clerks Act of 1877, which enabled magistrates 
to remit costs. The passing of the Summary Jurisdiction 
Act of 1879, which gave defendants the right to claim trial 
before a jury whenever the penalty exceeded three months' 
imprisonment, was, Howell observes, " materially aided by 
the action of Congress." But it is needless to inform the 
reader that the Criminal Law never got itself codified. To 
this day juries continue to be drawn exclusively from the 
upper and middle classes. The long agitation for the 
abolition of the unpaid magistracy ended in an anti-climax. 
The Liberal Government of 1884 left the system unaltered, 
but, on the nomination of Henry Broadhurst, 2 placed four 
Trade Union leaders upon the magisterial bench in certain 
Lancashire boroughs, a precedent since followed by suc- 
cessive Lord Chancellors. 

In one direction the Parliamentary Committee saw their 
hopes fully accomplished. Their adoption of the particular 
projects of electoral reform advocated by the Liberal party 
enabled them to render effective help in the passing of the 
Acts of 1885, which assimilated the County and the Borough 
Franchise, effected a redistribution of seats, and made the 
extended hours of polling universal. But the desire of 
successive Congresses for effective labour representation 

1 The appointment was first offered to Broadhurst, who elected to 
continue his work as Secretary of the Parliamentary Committee, and who 
suggested Prior (Henry Broadhurst, the Story of his Life, by himself, 1901). 

2 Ibid.'p. 136. 

Liberal Trade Unionists 373 

continued to be baulked by the extortion from candidates 
of heavy election expenses, and by the refusal to provide 
payment for service in Parliament and other public bodies. 
On the burning question of the land the Parliamentary 
Committee supported with conscientious fervour Gladstone's 
Irish policy of creating small freeholds, and enthusiastically 
endorsed the proposals of Chamberlain for the extension of 
similar legislation to Great Britain. The same spirit no 
doubt entered into their support of the provisions of Cham- 
berlain's Patent Act, designed to facilitate the taking out 
of patents by poor inventors. To sum up the situation, we 
may say that the resolutions of the Trades Union Congress 
on questions of general politics between 1880 and 1884 
were successfully pressed on the Legislature only in so far 
as they happened to coincide with the proposals of the 
Liberal party. With the one great exception of the Em- 
ployers' Liability Act, nothing seems really to have called 
out the full energies of the leaders. The manifestoes and 
published memoranda of the Parliamentary Committee 
during these years do not differ either in tone or in sub- 
stance from the speeches and articles in which Chamberlain 
and other Radical capitalists were propounding a programme 
of individualist Radicalism. In fact, the draft " Address 
to the Workmen of the United Kingdom/' which the Par- 
liamentary Committee, in anticipation of the General 
Election, submitted to the Congress of 1885, fell far short 
of Chamberlain's " Unauthorised Programme." It occurred 
neither to the Parliamentary Committee nor to the Congress 
to suggest the obvious answer to Sir William Harcourt's 
financial objection to increased factory inspection. No 
trace is to be discovered of any consciousness on the part 
of the Trade Union leaders of the existence of a very sub- 
stantial tribute annually levied upon the industrial world 
under the names of rent and interest. And even Chamber- 
lain's modest and tentative proposals of these years, re- 
lating to the payment, by the recipients of that tnbute, of 
some contribution by way of " ransom," found no echo in 

374 The Old Unionism and the New 

the official programme of the Trade Union world. Finally, 
though the Congress had adopted Payment of Election 
Expenses in 1883, and Payment of Members in 1884, the 
Parliamentary Committee omitted both these propositions 
from its draft, and, like Gladstone, could not even bring 
itself to ask for Free Education. The three latter points 
were added to the draft by the Congress. 

The assimilation of the political creed of the Trade 
Union leaders with that of the official Liberal party was 
perfectly sincere. We have already described, in the pre- 
ceding chapter, how the Junta had begun to be uncon- 
sciously converted from the traditional position of Trade 
Unionism to the principle of Administrative Nihilism, then 
dominant in the middle class. It is unnecessary for us to 
argue whether this conception of the functions of law and 
government is or is not an adequate view of social develop- 
ment. The able and conscientious men who formed the 
Front Bench of the Trades Union Congress of 1876-85 had 
grown up without any alternative political theory, and had 
accordingly erected the objection to legislative interference 
or Governmental administration into an absolute dogma. 1 
_V_ Laisser-faife, then, was the political and social creed of 
7 the Trade Union leaders of this time. Up to 1885 they 
undoubtedly represented the views current among the rank 
and file. At that date all observers were agreed that the 
Trade Unions of Great Britain would furnish' an impene- 
trable barrier against Socialistic projects. \Vithin a decade 
we find the whole Trade Union world permeated with 
Collectivist ideas, and, as the Times recorded as early as 

1 It may be mentioned that the Trades Union Congress, which at first 
had welcomed addresses from the middle and upper class friends of Trade 
Unionism, was, between 1881 and 1883, gradually restricted to Trade 
Unionists. At the Nottingham Congress in 1883, where Frederic Harrison 
read a paper on the " History of Trade Unionism," and Henry Crompton 
one on the " Codification of the Law," when Frederic Harrison proposed to 
take part in the discussion on the Land Question, he was not permitted to 
do so ; and this rule has since been rigidly adhered to. At the Aberdeen 
Congress of 1884 Lord Rosebery was allowed to deliver an address on the 
" Federalism of the Trades Union Congress," but this was the last time 
that any one has been invited to read a paper. 

The New Ferment 375 

1893, the Socialist party supreme in the Trades Union 
Congress. 1 This revolution in opinion is the chief event off 
Trade Union history at the close of the nineteenth century ; 
and we propose to analyse in some detail the various' in- 
fluences which in our opinion co-operated to bring it about. 
We shall trace the beginnings of a new intellectual ferment 
in the Trade Union world. We shall watch this working 
on minds awakened by an industrial contraction of excep- 
tional character. We shall see it resulting in the revelation 
of hideous details of poverty and degradation, for which 
deepening social compunction imperatively demanded a 
remedy. We shall describe the recrudescence of a revolu- 
tionary Utopianism like the Owenism of 1833-34. We shall 
trace the gradual schooling of the impracticable elements 
into a sobered and somewhat bureaucratic Collectivism ; 
and finally, we shall watch the rapid diffusion of this new 
faith throughout the whole Trade Union world. 2 

If we had to assign to any one event the starting of 
the new current of thought, we should name the wide cir- 
culation in Great Britain of Henry George's Progress and 
Poverty during the years 1880-82. The optimist and 
aggressive tone of the book, in marked contrast with the 
complacent quietism into which the English working-class 
movement had sunk, and the force of the popularisation of 

1 Times leader on the Congress of Belfast, September n, 1893, which 
deplores the remarkable " subservience to Mr. John Burns and his friends " 
manifested by the Congress a subservience marked by the election of 
Mr. Burns for the Parliamentary Committee at the head of the poll, and 
by the adoption of a programme which included the nationalisation of the 
land and other means of production and distribution. 

2 The following description of the rise of the "New Unionism" of 
1889 is based on minutes and reports of Trade Union organisations, the files 
of Justice, the Labour Elector, the Trade Unionist, the Cotton Factory Times, 
the Workman's Times, and other working-class journals. The document- 
ary evidence has been elucidated and supplemented by the reminiscences 
of most of the principal actors in the movement, and by the personal 
recollections of the authors themselves, one of whom, as a member of the 
Fabian Society, observed the transformation from the Socialist side, whilst 
the other, as a disciple of Herbert Spencer and a colleague of Charles Booth, 
was investigating the contemporary changes from an Individualist 

376 The Old Unionism and the New 

the economic Theory of Rent, sounded the dominant note 
alike of the " New Unionism " and of the British Socialist 
Movement. Henry George made, it is true, no contribution 
to the problems of industrial organisation ; nor had he, 
outside of the " Single Tax " on land values, any intention 
of promoting a general Collectivist movement. But he 
succeeded, where previous writers had failed, in widely 
diffusing among all classes a vivid appreciation of the nature 
and results of the landlord's appropriation of economic 
rent. It is, in our judgement, the spread among the town 
artisans of this conception of rent which has so largely 
transformed the economic views of the Trade Union world, 
and which has gone far to shift the lines of politics. The land 
question in particular has been completely revolutionised. 
Instead of the Chartist cry of " Back to the Land," still 
adhered to by rural labourers and belated politicians, the 
town artisan is thinking of his claim to the unearned incre- 
ment of urban land values, which he now watches falling 
into the coffers of the great landlords. 

But if Henry George gave the starting push, it was the 
propaganda of the Socialists that got the new movement 
under way. The Socialist party, which became reorganised 
in London between 1881 and 1883, after practically a genera- 
tion of quiescence, merged the project of Land Nationalisa- 
tion in the wider conception of an organised Democratic 
community in which the collective power and the collective 
income should be consciously directed to the common benefit 
of all. 1 Whilst Henry George was, almost in his own 
despite, driving Peasant Proprietorship and Leasehold En- 
franchisement out of the political field, the impressive 
description which Karl Marx had given of the effects of the 
Industrial Revolution was interpreting to the thoughtful 
workman the svery-day incidents of industrial life. It 
needed no Socialist to convince the artisan in any of the 
great industries that his chance of rising to be a successful 
employer was becoming daily more remote. It required no 

1 See Mr. H. M. Hyndman's England for All, 1881. 

The Advent of the Socialists 377 

agitator to point out that amid an enormous increase in 
wealth production the wages of the average mechanic re- 
mained scarcely sufficient to bring up his family in decency 
and comfort, whilst whole sections of his unskilled fellow- 
workers received less than the barest family maintenance. 
Even the skilled mechanic saw himself exposed to panics, 
commercial crises, and violent industrial dislocations, over 
which neither he nor his Trade Union had any control, and 
by which he and his children were often reduced to destitu- 
tion. But it was the Socialists who supplied the workman 
with a plausible explanation of these untoward facts. 
Through the incessant lecturing of H. M. Hyndman, William 
Morris, and other disciples of Karl Marx, working men were , 
taught that the impossibility of any large section of the 
working class becoming their own employers was due, not 
to lack of self-control, capacity, or thrift, but to the In- 
dustrial Revolution, with its improvement of mechanical 
processes, its massing of capital, and the consequent ex- 
tinction of the small entrepreneur by great industrial estab- 
lishments. In this light the divorce of the manual workers 
from the ownership of the means of production was seen to 
be no passing phase, but an economic development which 
must, under any system of private control of industry, 
become steadily more complete. And it was argued that 
the terrible alterations of over-production and commercial 
stagnation, the anomaly that a glut of commodities should 
be a cause of destitution, were the direct result of the 
management of industry with a view to personal profit, 
instead of to the satisfaction of public wants. 

The economic circumstances of the time supplied the 
Socialist lecturers with dramatic illustrations of their theory. 
Theac.ute depression of 1878-79 had been succeeded by only 
a brief and partial expansion during 1881-83. A period of 
prolonged though not exceptional contraction followed, 
during which certain staple trades experienced the most 
sudden and excessive fluctuations. In the great industry 
of shipbuilding, for instance, the bad times of 1879 were 

378 The Old Unionism and the New 

succeeded by a period during which trade expanded by 
leaps and bounds, more than twice the tonnage being built 
in 1883 than in 1879. In the very next year this enormous 
production came suddenly to an end, many shipbuilding 
yards being closed and whole towns on the north-east coast 
finding their occupation for the moment destroyed. The 
total tonnage built fell from 1,250,000 in 1883 to 750,000 
in 1884, 540,000 in 1885, and to the still lower total of 
473,000 in 1886. Thousands of the most highly skilled and 
best organised mechanics, who had been brought to Jarrow 
or Sunderland the year before, found themselves reduced to 
absolute destitution, not from any failure of their industry, 
but merely because the exigencies of competitive profit- 
making had led to the concentration in one year of the 
normal production of two. " In every shipbuilding port/' 
says Robert Knight in the Boilermakers' Annual Report for 
1886, " there are to be seen thousands of idle men vainly 
seeking for an honest day's work. The privation that has 
been endured by them, their wives and children, is terrible 
to contemplate. Sickness has been very prevalent, whilst 
the hundreds of pinched and hungry faces have told a tale 
of suffering and privation which no optimism could minimise 
or conceal. Hide it cover it up as we may, there is a 
depth of grief and trouble the full revelations of which, we 
believe, cannot be indefinitely postponed. The workman 
may be ignorant of science and the arts, and the sum of 
his exact knowledge may be only that which he has gained 
in his closely circumscribed daily toil ; but he is not blind, 
and his thoughts do not take the shape of daily and hourly 
thanksgiving that his condition is not worse than it is ; he 
does not imitate the example of the pious shepherd of 
Salisbury Plain, who derived supreme contentment from the 
fact that a kind Providence had vouchsafed him salt to 
eat with his potatoes. He sees the lavish display of wealth 
in which he has no part. He sees a large and growing class 
enjoying inherited abundance. He sees miles of costly 
residences, each occupied by fewer people than are crowded 

James Mawdsley 379 

into single rooms of the tenement in which he lives. He 
cannot fail to reason that there must be something wrong 
in a system which effects such unequal distribution of the 
wealth created by labour." 

Other skilled trades had, between 1883 and 1887, a 
similar though less dramatic experience. At the Inter- 
national Trades Union Congress of 1886, James Mawdsley, 
the cautious leader of the Lancashire cotton-spinners, speak- 
ing as a member of the Parliamentary Committee on behalf 
of the British section, described the state of affairs in Eng- 
land in the following terms : " Wages had fallen, and there 
was a great number of unemployed. . . . Flax mills were 
being closed every day. . . . All the building trades were in 
a bad position ; . . . ironfoundries were in difficulties, and 
one-third of the shipwrights were without work. . . . Steam- 
engine makers were also slack, except those manufacturers 
who exported to France, Germany, and Austria. With a 
few rare exceptions, the depression affecting the great lead- 
ing trades was felt in a thousand-and-one occupations. 
Seeing that there was a much larger number of unemployed, 
the question naturally presented itself as to whether there 
was any chance of improvement. He considered there was 
no chance of improvement so long as the present state of 
society continued to exist. ... He did not understand 
their Socialism ; he had not studied it as perhaps he ought 
to have done. The workmen of England were not so 
advanced as the workmen of the Continent. Nevertheless 
they, at least, possessed one clear conception : they realised 
that the actual producers did not obtain their share of the 
wealth they created." 1 We see the same spirit spreading 
even to the most conservative and exclusive trades. " To 
our minds," writes the Central Secretary of the powerful 
Union of Flint Glass Makers, " it is very hard for employers 
to attempt to force men into systems by which they cannot 
earn an honourable living. These unjust attempts to 

1 Report of the International Trades Union Congress at Paris, 1886, by 
Adolphe Smith, 1886. 

380 The Old Unionism and the New 

grind down the working men will not be tolerated much 
longer, for revolutionary changes are beginning to show 
themselves, and important matters affecting the industrial 
classes will speedily come to the front. Why, for example, 
should Lord Dudley inherit coal-mines and land producing 
1000 a day while his colliers have to slave all the week 
ancLcannot get a living ? " * 

^he discontent was fanned by well-intentioned if some- 
what sentimental philanthropists, who were publishing their 
experiences in the sweated industries and the slums of the 
great cities. The Bitter Cry of Outcast London and other 
gruesome stories were revealing, not only to the middle 
class, but also to the " aristocracy of labour," whole areas 
of industrial life which neither Trade Unionism nor Co- 
operation could hope to reach. With the middle class the 
compunction thus excited resulted in elaborate investiga- 
tions issuing in inconclusive reports. A Royal Commission 
on the Housing of the Poor produced nothing more effectual 
than a slight addition to the existing powers of vestries and 
Town Councils. Another on the Depression of Trade was 
absolutely barren. A Select Committee of the House of 
Lords on the Poor Law failed even to discover the problems 
to be solved. Another on the Sweating System ended, 
after years of delay, in an accurate diagnosis of the evil, 
coupled with a confession of inability to cope with it. In 
1885 an Edinburgh philanthropist provided a thousand 
pounds for a public conference to inquire whether some 
more equitable system of industrial remuneration could not 
be suggested : a conference which served only to cast doubt 
on such philanthropic schemes as profit-sharing and the 
" self-governing workshop," whilst bringing into prominence 
the Socialist proposals. 2 And, more important than all 
these, Charles Booth, a great merchant and shipowner, 
began in 1886, at his own expense, a systematic statistical 
inquiry into the actual social condition of the whole popula- 

1 Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, November 1884. 
2 Report of the Industrial Remuneration Conference, 1885. 

Charles Booth 381 

tion of London, the impressive results of which eventually 
reverberated from one end of the kingdom to the other. 1 

The outcome of the investigations thus set on foot was i 
an incalculable impetus to social 'reform. They had, for 
the most part, been' undertaken in the expectation that a 
sober and scientific inquiry would prove the exceptional 
character of the harrowing incidents laid bare by the philan- 
thropists, and unsparingly quoted by the new agitators. 
But to the genuine surprise alike of the economists and the 
Trade Union leaders, the lurid statements of the sensation- f 
alists and the Socialists were, on the whole, borne out byl 
the statistics; The stories of unmerited misery were shown 
to be, not accidental exceptions to a general condition of 
moderate well-being, but typical instances of the average 
existence of great masses of the population. The " sweater " 
turned out to be, not an exceptionally cruel capitalist, but 
himself the helpless product of a widespread degeneration 
which extended over whole industries. In the wealthiest 
and most productive city in the world, Charles Booth, after 
an exhaustive census, was driven to the conclusion that a 
million and a quarter persons fell habitually below his 
" Poverty Line." Thirty-two per cent of the whole popula- 
tion of London (in some large districts over 60 per cent) were 
found to be living in a state of chronic poverty, which pre- 
cluded not only the elementary conditions of civilisation 
and citizenship, but was incompatible with physical health 
or industrial efficiency. Moreover, Charles Booth's figures 
and the report of the House of Lords Committee on Sweating 
disproved, once for all, the comfortable assumption that all 

1 The results of twenty years of patient labour by Charles Booth and 
his assistants are embodied in the magnificent work, Labour and Life of the 
People (London, ist edition, 2 vols., 1889-91 ; 2nd edition, 4 vols., 1893), 
reissued in greatly enlarged form as Life and Labour in London, 18 vols. ; 
Pauperism and the Endowment of Old Age (London, 1893) ; The Aged Poor 
(1894) ; Old Age and the Aged Poor (1899) ; Industrial Unrest and Trades 
Union Policy (1913). In Charles Booth: a Memoir (1918) Mrs. Booth 
has given a personal biography (1840-1914) of a tireless investigator who, 
merely by the instrument of social diagnosis, got accomplished reforms of 
a magnitude that seemed at first wholly impracticable. 

382 The Old Unionism and the New 

destitution originated in drink or vice. It was impossible, 
fcTuse the well-known phrase of Burke, to draw an indict- 
ment against a third of the people of London, or against 
two-thirds of the East End. 

The daily experience of whole sections of the wage- 
earners during these years of depression, and the statistical 
inquiries of the middle class, appeared, therefore, to justify 
the Socialist indictment of the capitalist system. What 
was perhaps of more effect was the fact that the Socialists 
/alone seemed inspired by faith in a radical transformation 

'of society, and that they alone offered a solution which had 
not yet been tried and found wanting. Prior to 1867 it had 
been possible to ascribe the evil state of the wage-earners to 
the malignant influence of class government and political 
exclusion. Cobden and Bright had eloquently described 
the millennium to be reached through untaxed products. 
For a whole generation the leaders of a consolidated Trade 
Unionism had demonstrated the advantageous terms that 
the artisan might, through collective bargaining and a 
reserve fund, wring from his employers. But in face of a 
protracted lack of employment, the extended suffrage, Free 
Trade, and well-administered Trade Unions proved alike 
helpless. Twenty years of the franchise had left the town 
artisan still at the mercy of commercial gamblers and 
exposed to the extortions of the slum landlord. A Liberal 
Government was actually in power, wielding an enormous 
majority, but manifesting no keen desire to remedy the 
results of economic inequality. No attempt was being made 
to redress even the admitted wrongs of the necessitous tax- 
payer. The Tea Duty remained untouched ; the Land 
Tax was left unref ormed ; whilst the larger question of 
using some of the nation's wealth to provide decent con- 
ditions of existence for the great bulk of the people was 
not even mooted. A further Extension of the Franchise, 

JFree Trade, and Popular Education were still the only 
social and economic panaceas that the Liberal party had 
to offer. But cheapness of commodities was of no use to 

The Sick and Burial Club 383 

the workman who was thrown out of employment ; and 
the spread of education served but to increase his discon- 
tent with existing social conditions and his ability to under- 
stand the theoretic explanations and practical proposals 
of the new school of -reformers. 

The working man found no more comfort in Trade 
Unionism than in party politics. The mason, carpenter, 
or ironfounder saw, for instance, his old and powerful 
Trade Society reduced to little more than a sick and burial / 
club, refusing all support to strikes even against reductions 
of wages and increase of hours, and only maintaining its 
out-of-work benefit by running heavily into debt to its 
more prosperous members. 1 As the lean years followed 
one on another, he saw the benefits reduced, the contribu- 
tions raised, and numbers of staunch Unionists left high 
and dry as members " out of benefit." The trade friendly 
society the " scientific Trade Unionism " of the Front 
Bench was in fact becoming rapidly discredited. John 
Burns and Tom Mann, young and energetic members of the 
Amalgamated Society of Engineers, were, between 1884 and 
1889, vigorously denouncing, up and down the country, 
the supineness of their great amalgamated Union. " How 
long, how long," appeals Tom Mann to the Trade Unionists 
in 1886, 2 " will you be content with the present half-hearted 
policy of your Unions ? I readily grant that good work 
has been done in the past by the Unions ; but, in Heaven's 
name, what good purpose are they serving now ? All of 
them have large numbers out of employment even when 

1 The funds of the Stonemasons had been completely exhausted by the 
great strike of 1878. In January 1879 the Society determined, on a 
proposition submitted by the Central Executive, to close all pending 
disputes (including a general strike at Sheffield against a heavy reduction 
without due notice); and between that date and March 1885, though 
many of the branches struggled manfully, and in some cases successfully, 
against repeated reductions of wages, increases of hours, or infringements 
of the local bye-laws, no strike whatever was supported from the Society's 
funds. The case of the Stonemasons is typical of the other great trade 
friendly societies. 

2 What a Compulsory Eight Hours Working Day means to the Workers, 
by Tom Mann (1886), 16 pp. 

384 The Old Unionism and the New 

their particular trade is busy. None of the important 
societies have any policy other than that of endeavouring 
to keep wages from falling. The true Unionist policy of 
aggression seems entirely lost sight of : in fact, the average 
Unionist of to-day is a man with a fossilised intellect, either 
hopelessly apathetic, or supporting a policy that plays 
directly into the hands of the capitalist exploiter. . . . I take 
my share of the work of the Trade Union to which I belong ; 
but I candidly confess that unless it shows more vigour 
at the present time (June 1886) I shall be compelled to take 
the view against my will that to continue to spend time 
over the ordinary squabble-investigating, do-nothing policy 
will be an unjustifiable waste of one's energies. I am sure 
there are thousands of others in my state of mind." 1 

1 Mr. Tom Mann, one of the outstanding figures in the New Unionist 
Movement, was born at Foleshill, Warwickshire, in 1856, and apprenticed 
in an engineering shop at Birmingham, whence he came to London in 1878, 
and joined the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. Eagerly pursuing his 
self -education, he became acquainted first with the Co-operative Movement, 
and then with the writings of Henry George. In 1884 he visited the United 
States, where he worked for six months. On his return he joined the 
Battersea Branch of the Social Democratic Federation, and quickly became 
one of its leading speakers. His experience of the evils of overtime made 
the Eight Hours Day a prominent feature in his lectures, and in 1886 he 
published his views in the pamphlet, What a Compulsory Eight Hours 
Working Day means to the Workers (1886, i6pp.), of which several editions 
have been printed. In the same year he left his trade in order to devote 
himself to the provincial propaganda of the Social Democratic Federation, 
spending over two years incessantly lecturing, first about Tyneside, and 
then in Lancashire. Returning to London early in 1889, he assisted in 
establishing the Gasworkers' Union and in organising the great dock strike, 
on the termination of which he was elected President of the Dockers' Union. 
For three years he applied himself to building up this organisation, deciding 
to resign in 1892, when he became a candidate for the General Secretary- 
ship of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. After an exciting contest, 
during which he addressed meetings of the members in all the great 
engineering centres, he failed of success only by 951 votes on a poll of 
35,992. In the meantime he had been appointed, in 1891, a member of 
the Royal Commission on Labour, to which he submitted a striking scheme 
for consolidating the whole dock business of the port of London, by cutting 
a new channel for the Thames across the Isle of Dogs. On the establish- 
ment in 1 893 of the London Reform Union he was appointed its secretary, 
a post which he relinquished in 1894 on being elected secretary of the 
Independent Labour Party. This he presently relinquished to emigrate 
to New Zealand ; and there and in Australia he threw himself energetically 
into Trade Union agitation. Returning to England Jn igu. he became a 

John Burns 385 

" Constituted as it is," writes John Burns in September 
I887, 1 " Unionism carries within itself the source of its own 
dissolution. . . . Their reckless assumption of the duties 
and responsibilities that only the State or whole community 
can discharge, in the nature of sick and superannuation 
benefits, at the instance of the middle class, is crushing out 
the larger Unions by taxing their members to an unbearable 
extent. This so cripples them that the fear of being unable 
to discharge their friendly society liabilities often makes 
them submit to encroachments by the masters without 
protest. The result of this is that all of them have ceased 
to be Unions for maintaining the rights of labour, and have 
degenerated into mere middle and upper class rate-reducing 
institutions." 2 

fervent advocate of Syndicalism ; and then became an organiser for 
various General Labour Unions. In 1919 he was elected General Secretary 
of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, after an exhaustive ballot of 
its great membership. 

1 Article in Justice, September 3, 1887. 

2 Mr. John Burns, in many respects the most striking personality in 
the Labour Movement, was born at Battersea in 1859, and was apprenticed 
to a local engineering firm. Already during his apprenticeship he made his 
voice heard in public, in 1877 being actually arrested for persistently 
speaking on Clapham Common, and in 1878 braving the " Jingo " mob at 
a Hyde Park demonstration. As soon as he was out of his time (1879) he 
joined the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and became an advocate 
of shorter hours of labour. An engagement as engineer on the Niger, 
West Africa, during 1 880-81, gave him leisure to read, which he utilised by 
mastering Adam Smith and J. S. Mill. Returning to London, he worked 
side by side with Victor Delahaye, an ex-Communard, who was afterwards 
one of the French representatives at the Berlin Labour Conference, 1891, 
and with whom he had many talks on the advancement of labour. In 
1883 he joined the Social Democratic Federation, and at once became its 
leading working-class member, championing its cause, for instance, in an 
impressive speech at the Industrial Remuneration Conference in 1885. In 
the same year he was elected by his district of the Amalgamated Society 
of Engineers as its representative at the quinquennial delegate meeting of 
the Society, where he found himself the youngest member. At the General 
Election of 1885 he stood as Socialist candidate for West Nottingham, 
receiving 598 votes. For the next two years he became known as the 
leader of the London " unemployed " agitation. His prosecution for 
sedition in 1886 (with three other prominent members of the Social Demo- 
cratic Federation) aroused considerable interest, and on his acquittal his 
speech for the defence, The Man with the Red Flag, had a large sale in 
pamphlet form (1886; 16 pp.). At the prohibited demonstration at 


386 The Old Unionism and the New 

Here we see the beginning of that agitation against th 
combination of friendly benefits with trade protection aim 
which subsequently became, for a short time, one of th 
characteristics of the " New Unionism." But if the trad' 
friendly society withered up during these years into a mer 
benefit club, the purely trade society showed no great e 
^/Vitality. The great depression of 1878-79 had swept out o 
existence hundreds of little local Unions which lacked th 
cohesion given by the friendly society side. The Lancashir 
and Midland Miners' organisations, which gave no benefits 
had either collapsed altogether, or had dissolved int< 
isolated pit clubs, incapable of combined action. Th 
Lancashire cotton operatives, the Northumberland am 
Durham miners, and a few other essentially trade societies 
held together only by surrendering to the employers on 
concession after another. With capitalists ready at an; 
moment to suspend a profitless business, collective bar 
. gaining proved as powerless to avert reductions as th 
individual contract. In face of a long-continued depressioi 
of trade, marked by frequent oscillations in particula 
industries, both types of Trade Unionism, it seemed, ha< 
been tried and found wanting. 

These were the circumstances under which the dis 
illusioned working-class politician or Trade Unionist wa 
reached by the lectures and writings of the Socialists, wh 

Trafalgar Square on " Bloody Sunday " (November 13, 1887), in con 
junction with Mr. Cunninghame Graham, M.P., he broke through the polic 
line, for which they were both sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment. I 
January 1889 he was elected for'Battersea to the new London Count 
Council, on which he became one of the most useful and influential mem 
bers. His magnificent work in the dock strike and in organising th 
unskilled labourers is described in the text. At the General Election c 
1892 he was chosen, by a large majority, M.P. for Battersea, and at th 
Trades Union Congress in 1893 he received the largest number of vote 
for the Parliamentary Committee, of which he accordingly became Chaii 
man. In 1906 he was appointed President of the Local Governmen 
Board in Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman's Government, with a seat in th 
Cabinet thus becoming the first working - man Cabinet Minister 
post which he held until August 1914, when he resigned on the outbreak o 
war. He retained his seat in Parliament until 1918, when he retired. 

The Unemployed 387 

offered him not only a sympathetic explanation of the ills 
from which he suffered, but also a comprehensive scheme 
of social reform, extending from an Eight Hours Bill to 
the Nationalisation of the Means of Production. In a 
"purely historical essay it is unnecessary for us to discuss 
the validity of the optimistic confidence with which the 
Socialists of these years declared that under a system of 
collective ownership the workers would not only be ensured 
at all times a competent livelihood, but would themselves 
control the administration of the surplus wealth of the nation. 
But in tracing the causes of the New Unionism of 1889-90, 
and the transformation of the Trade Union Movement from 
an Individualist to a Collectivist influence in the political 
world, we venture to ascribe a large share to the superior 
attractiveness of this buoyant faith over anything offered 
by the almost cynical fatalism of the old school. 

The Socialist agitation benefited between 1886 and 1889 
by a series of undesigned advertisements. Meetings of " the 
unemployed " in February 1886 led to unexpected riots, 
which threw all London into a panic, and were followed by 
a Government prosecution for sedition. Hyndman, Burns, 
Champion, and Williams, as the leaders of the Social Demo- 
cratic Federation, were indicted at the Old Bailey, and their 
trial, ending in an acquittal, attracted the attention of the 
whole country to their doctrines. The " Unemployed " 
gatherings went on with ever-increasing noise until Novem- 
ber 1887, when the Chief Commissioner of Police issued a 
proclamation prohibiting meetings in Trafalgar Square, 
which had for a whole generation served as the forum of 
the London agitator. This " attack on free speech " by 
a Conservative Government, coming after several minor 
attempts to suppress open-air meetings by its Liberal pre- 
decessor, rallied the forces of London artisan Radicalism 
to those of the Socialists. A gigantic demonstration on 
Sunday, November 13, 1887, was held in defiance of the 
police, only to be repulsed from Trafalgar Square by a free 
use of the police bludgeon and the calling out of both 

388 The Old Unionism and the New 

cavalry and infantry. John Burns and Cunninghame 
Graham, M.P., were imprisoned for their share in this 
transaction. A similar agitation on a smaller scale was 
going on in the provinces. On Tyneside and in the Mid- 
lands numerous emissaries of the Social Democratic Federa- 
tion and the Socialist League were spreading the revolt 

j against the helpless apathy into which the Trade Unions 

' had sunk. In every large industrial centre the indefatigable 
lecturing of branches of Socialist organisations was stirring 
up a vague but effective unrest in all except the official 
circle of the Trade Union world. 

To the great army of unskilled, or only partially skilled, 
workmen concentrated in London and other large cities the 

\- new crusade came as a gospel of deliverance. The unskilled 
labourer was getting tired of being referred, as the sole 
means of bettering his condition, to the " scientific Trade 
Unionism " alone recognised by the Front Bench. Trade 
Societies which admitted only workmen earning a high 
standard rate, which exacted a weekly contribution of not 
less than a shilling, and which frequently excluded all but 
regularly apprenticed men, were regarded by the builders' 
labourer, the gas stoker, or the docker, as aristocratic corpora- 
tions with which he had as little in common as with the 
House of Lords. " The great bulk of our labourers," writes 

/ John Burns, " are ignored by the skilled workers. It is 
this selfish, snobbish desertion by the higher grades of the 
lower that makes success in many disputes impossible. 
Ostracised by their fellows, a spirit of revenge alone often 
prompts men to oppose or remain indifferent to Unionism, 
when if the Unions were wiser and more conciliatory, support 
would have been forthcoming where now jealousy and dis- 
content prevails." 1 Even among the skilled workers, the 
ycunger artisans, if they had joined their Unions at all, 
were discontented with the exclusive and apathetic policy, 
of the older members. Thus we find rising up, in such; 
" aristocratic " Unions as the Amalgamated Society of 

1 Address to Trade Unionists in Justice, January 24, 1885. 

Adam Weiler 389 

Engineers and the London Society of Compositors, a " New 
Unionist " party of young men, who vigorously objected to 
the degradation of a Trade Union into a mutual insurance 
company, who protested against the exclusion of the lowly 
paid sections from the organisation of the trade, and who 
advocated the use of the political influence of the Society 
in the interests of Social-Democracy. By 1888 the Socialists 
had not only secured the allegiance of large sections of the 
unskilled labourers in London and some other towns, but 
had obtained an important body of recruits in the great 
" Amalgamated " societies. 

At this pass nothing short of strangulation could have 
kept the new spirit out of the Trade Union Congress. It 
is interesting to notice that the first sign among the delegates 
is to be ascribed to the direct influence of Karl Marx. At 
the 1878 Congress at Bristol we find Adam Weiler, an old 
member of the " International," and a personal friend of 
the great Socialist, reading a paper in which he advocated 
legislation to limit the hours of labour. 1 At the next 
Congress Weiler took exception to the resolution in favour 
of establishing a Peasant Proprietorship moved on behalf 
of the Parliamentary Committee. But in that year his 
amendment in favour of Land Nationalisation did not even 
find a seconder. Three ' years later the effect of Henry 
George's propaganda becomes visible. In 1882, when the 
land question was again raised, the two ideals were sharply 

1 Weiler was the delegate of the Alliance Cabinetmakers' Society, and 
came from London. The Congress Report gives the following account of 
his paper : " After reviewing the position of the working classes under 
the present system, and comparing it with the state of things eighty years 
ago, he contended that the best means of bettering their position was to 
reduce the hours of toil. The result of this would be, first, to give every 
worker a better chance of employment, and thus lessen that sort of com- 
petition which was caused by hunger and want ; secondly, it would give 
them time and opportunity for rest and amusement, and that cultivation 
of their minds which would enable them to prepare themselves for the time 
when the present system of production would collapse, and the time of 
this collapse was not so distant as some supposed." The paper was 
received with much applause, and Weiler received the thanks of Congress. 
No resolution was passed. 

390 The Old Unionism and the New 

contrasted, and in spite of protests against " communistic 
principles/' a rider declaring for nationalisation was adopted 
by 71 votes to 31. The Parliamentary Committee made no 
change in their attitude on the question, contending that 
the vote had been taken in the absence of many delegates, 
and that it did not represent the opinion of the Congress 
as a whole. This contention was to some extent borne out 
by the votes of the next five Congresses, at all of which 
amendments in favour of the principle of nationalisation 
were rejected, though by decreasing majorities. At length, 
in 1887, at the Swansea Congress, the tide turned, and a 
vague addendum in favour of Land Nationalisation was 
accepted. 1 At the Bradford Congress in 1888 the very idea 
of Peasant Proprietorship had disappeared. The represent- 
atives of the agricultural labourers now asked only for 
individual occupation of publicly owned allotments. Ulti- 
mately the Congress adopted by 66 votes to 5 a distinct 
declaration in favour of Land Nationalisation, coupled with 
an instruction to the Parliamentary Committee to bring 
the proposal before the House of Commons. 

Meanwhile Weiler had made another and more successful 
attempt to enlist the aid of the Congress in the legal regu- 
lation of the hours of labour. At the 1883 Congress he 
moved a resolution which instructed the Parliamentary 
Committee to obtain the legal limitation to eight hours of 
the maximum day of all workers in the employment of 
public authorities, or companies exercising Parliamentary 
powers. This was seconded by Edward Harford, the 
General Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Railway 
Servants, and carried, in a thin meeting, by only 33 to 8. 
In 1885 the movement had so far gained weight that the 
Parliamentary Committee thought it expedient to tem- 
porise by promoting an investigation into the amount of 
overtime worked in Government departments, with the 
result of demonstrating how completely the practice of 

1 History of the British Trades Union Congress, by W. J. Davis, vol. i. 
p. 133- 

The Eight Hours Bill 391 

systematic overtime had neutralised the Nine Hours victory. 1 
At the 1887 Congress at Swansea the Parliamentary Com- 
mittee were instructed to take a vote of the Trade Union 
world upon the whole question, a vote which revealed the 
unexpected fact that Applegarth's own Union, the Amal- 
gamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, had been con- 
verted to an, Eight Hours Bill. 2 A second plebiscite, taken 
at the instance of the following year's Congress, showed that 
such old Unions as the Compositors, the Ironfounders, and 
the Railway Servants were swinging round. 3 

In the meantime the growing divergence of policy among 
the coal-miners, which we foreshadowed in the last chapter, 
had brought a powerful contingent of organised workmen to 
the support of the new party. We have already described 
the conversion of the leaders of the Northumberland and 
Durham miners to the principle of the Sliding Scale, in- 
volving, as it did, the dependence of the worker's standard of 
comfort upon the market price of his product. On another 
point, too, the two northern counties had broken away from 
the traditional policy of the Miners' organisation. Already 
in 1863 we noted that Crawford, one of the ablest of their 
leaders, was vigorously objecting, at the Leeds Conference, 
to an Eight Hours Bill for boys, on the ground that in 
Northumberland and Durham, where the hewers often 
worked in two shifts, such a restriction would interfere 
with the men's convenience. This resistance to a particular 

1 The Return moved for by George Howell regarding the Woolwich 
and Enfield engineering works showed that, during 1884 and 1885, more 
than half the artisans worked overtime, the average per week for each man 
varying from 9.4 hours in some shops to 17.8 in others. 

2 11,966 of its members voted for an Eight Hours Day, and of these 
9209 declared in favour of the enforcement of the eight hours limit by 
law. The total votes given for an Eight Hours Law was 17,267 ; against 
it, 3819. 

8 The votes in favour of an Eight Hours Day were 39,656 ; against 
it, 67,390, of which 56,541 were cast on behalf of the Cotton-spinners and 
Weavers. 'In favour of an Eight Hours Law, 28,511 ; against it, 12,283. 
The votes of the different trades, and a summary of the Congress proceed- 
ings on this subject, are given in The Eight Hours Day, by Sidney Webb 
and Harold Cox, 1891 ; see also History of the British Trades Union Congress, 
by W. J. Davis, vol. ii. pp. 7-8. 

392 The Old Unionism and the New 

interference with the exceptional circumstances of the local 
industry gradually developed into a general objection to 
legal regulation of the hours of adult men. We find, there- 
fore, the Northumberland and Durham miners from 1875 
onwards ranging themselves more and more with the leaders 
of the iron and building trades, who, as we have seen, 
had become largely converted to the economic conceptions 
then current among the middle class. The fact that the 
Northumberland and Durham Associations, almost alone 
among Miners' Unions, had successfully weathered the 
bad times of 1877-79, and the constant presence of one or 
other of their leaders on the Parliamentary Committee, 
caused these opinions to be accepted as those of the whole 

But the miners elsewhere did not long rest content with 
the new policy of Durham and Northumberland. In 
December 1881 the amalgamated South and West York- 
shire Miners' Associations formally terminated the then 
existing Sliding Scale, and passed a resolution in favour of 
the policy of restricting the output. During the following 
years the Yorkshire employers several times proposed the 
re-establishment of a scale, but the men insisted on its 
being accompanied by an agreement for a minimum below 
which wages should in no event fall a condition to which 
the coal-owners uniformly refused their assent. The lead 
given by the Yorkshire miners was quickly followed by 
other districts, notably by Lancashire. In this county 
Trade Unionism among the miners had, as we have seen, 
gone to pieces in the bad years. Reorganisation in local 
Unions came in 1881 ; and a Lancashire Miners' Federation 
was successfully established in the following year. At their 
Conference of 1883 the delegates of the Lancashire miners 
resolved, " That the time has come when the working miners 
shall regulate the production of coal ; that no collier or 
other underground worker shall work more than five days 
or shifts per week ; and that the hours from bank to bank 
be eight per shift." Finding it impossible to secure their 

Discord among the Miners 393 

object by strikes, the Lancashire men turned to that policy 
of legislative regulation which had marked the proceedings 
of the Conference of 1863. 

With the improvement in trade which began in 1885, 
the membership and influence of the Lancashire and York- 
shire organisations rapidly increased, and new federations 
were started throughout the Midlands. The Scotch miners, 
too, had in 1886-87 a sn rt outburst of organisation, when 
a national federation was formed with a membership of 
23,000. All these Associations adopted the policy of regu- 
lating the output, and the Scotch miners, in particular, 
conducted, in 1887, a vigorous agitation in support of the 
clause limiting the day's work to eight hours, which two 
Scottish members endeavoured to insert in the Mines Regu- 
lation Act of 1887. l But the Executive of the National 
Union had, since Macdonald's death in 1881, fallen entirely 
into the hands of the Northumberland and Durham leaders. 
Under their influence it maintained its adherence to the 
principle of the Sliding Scale and its hostility to the Eight 
Hours Bill, thereby alienating, not only the new federations, 
but also the old-established and powerful Yorkshire Miners' 
Association. From 1885 to 1888 the battle between the 
contending doctrines ranged at every miners' conference. 2 
During the latter year the combatants withdrew to separate 
camps. In September 1888 a conference of the representa- 
tives of non-sliding scale districts was called together in 

1 The clause was moved by S. Williamson, Liberal Member for Kil- 
marnock, and seconded by J. H. C. Hozier, Conservative Member for 
South Lanarkshire. It received no support from the " Labour Members," 
and was rejected by 159 to 104. See the Eight Hours Day, by Webb and 
Cox, 1891, p. 23. 

2 The " National Conferences " of the miners are a feature peculiar to 
the industry. Besides the periodical gatherings of the separate federations, 
the miners, since 1863, have had frequent conferences of delegates from all 
the organised districts in the kingdom. These conferences were, until 
1889, held under the auspices of the National Union ; subsequently they 
were summoned by the Miners' Federation. The meetings, from which 
reporters are now excluded, are consultative only, and their decisions are 
not authoritative until adopted by the separate organisations. See Die 
Ordnung des Arbeitsverhdltnisses in den Kohlengruben von Northumberland 
und Durham, by Dr. Emil Auerbach (Leipzig, 1890, 268 pp.). 


394 The Old Unionism and the New 

Manchester, when arrangements were made for the establish- 
ment of a new federation, into which no district governed 
by a sliding scale was to be allowed to enter. From this 
time forth the old National Union on the one hand, and 
the new Miners' Federation on the other, became rivals for 
the allegiance of the various district associations, and some- 
what unsympathetic critics of each other's policy and actions. 
The issue was not long doubtful. The National Union 
gradually shrank up to Northumberland and Durham, 
whilst the Miners' Federation, with its aggressive policy 
and its semi-Socialistic principles of a minimum wage and 
a legal day, grew apace. From 36,000 members in 1888, it 
rose to 96,000 in 1889, 147,000 in 1891, and over 200,000 in 
1893, overshadowing in its growth all existing Trade Union 
organisations. The Socialist advocates of the legal limita- 
tion of the hours of labour accordingly enjoyed from 1888 
onward, both in the Trade Union Congress and at the polling- 
booths, the support of a rapidly growing contingent of 
organised miners, whose solid adhesion has done more than 
anything else to promote the general movement in favour 
of an Eight Hours Bill. 

It is easy at this distance to recognise, in the altered 
tone of the rank and file of Congress delegates, a reflection 
of the wider change of opinion outside. But to the Trade 
Union Front Bench, as, in fact, to most of the politicians 
of the time, it was incredible that the new ideas should gain 
any real footing among the skilled artisans. The Parlia- 
mentary Committee regarded the innovations with much 
the same feeling as that with which they had met the pro- 
posals of a little gang which had, in 1882, vainly attempted 
to foist the principles of fiscal protection upon the Con- 
gress. 1 When Congress insisted on passing a resolution 
with which the Parliamentary Committee found themselves 

1 The " Fair Trade " attack had arisen in the following manner. At 
the Bristol Congress in 1878, certain delegates, who were strongly suspected 
of being the paid agents of the organisation then agitating for the abolition 
of the foreign bounties on sugar, attempted to force this question upon 
the Congress, and made a serious disturbance. These delegates afterwards 

The Parliamentary Committee 395 

in disagreement, this expression of opinion was sometimes 
ignored as being nothing more than the fad of particular 
delegates. It was in vain that the Congress of 1888, after 
ten years' deliberation, definitely decided in favour of the 
principles of Land Nationalisation instead of Peasant Pro- 
prietorship. The Parliamentary Committee contented itself 
with promising that " a well-considered measure " would be 
put forward by the Committee. The Eight Hours question 
could not be treated so cavalierly. Direct resolutions in favour 
of legislative action were therefore staved off by proposals 
for inquiry. When a vote of the Trade Union world was 
decided upon, the Parliamentary Committee, in conjunction 
with many of the General Secretaries, were able practically 
to baulk the investigation. The voting paper was loaded 
with warnings and arguments against legislative action. 
No attempt was made to ensure a genuine vote of the rank 
and file. In some cases the Executive Committees were 
allowed to take upon themselves the responsibility of de- 
claring the opinions held by the members of their societies, 
the total membership of which was then reckoned in the 
voting. In other instances the Executives were permitted 
without remonstrance simply to burke the question. The 

became the paid representatives of the " Fair Trade League," an associa- 
tion avowedly composed of landlords and capitalists with the object of 
securing a reimposition of import duties. The Front Bench steadfastly 
refused to allow the Congress to be used for promotion of this object, and 
were exposed in return to what the Congress in 1882 declared to be "a 
cowardly, false, and slanderous attack, . . . an attempt at moral assassina- 
tion." Instead of fighting the question of Free Trade versus Protection, 
the emissaries of the Fair Trade League developed an elaborate system of 
personal defamation, directed against Broadhurst, Howell, Shipton, and 
other leaders. For instance, Broadhurst's administration of the Gas 
Stokers' Relief Fund in 1872 was made the pretext for vague insinuations 
of malversation which were scattered broadcast through the Trade Union 
world. At the Congress of 1881 the " Fair Trade " delegates were expelled, 
on it being proved that their expenses were not paid by the Trade Union 
organisations which they nominally represented. A renewed attack on 
the Congress of 1882 ended in the triumphant victory of the Parliamentary 
Committee, the complete exoneration of Broadhurst and his colleagues, and 
the final discomfiture of the " Fair Trade " delegates. See Henry Broad- 
hurst : the Story of his Life, by himself, 1901 ; History of the British Trades 
Union Congress, by W. J. Davis, vol. i., 1910. 

396 The Old Unionism and the New 

inquiry failed to elicit any trustworthy census of the opinion 
of the Trade Union world. 

An equal lack of sympathy was shown in connection 
with the growing feeling of the Congress in favour of the 
participation of British Trade Unionists in International 
Congresses. At the express command of Congress, the 
Parliamentary Committee sent delegates to the International 
gatherings of 1883 and 1886. But though these instructions 
were complied with, the Parliamentary Committee made it 
clear, in their annual reports, that far from favouring 
International action, " the position they assumed was that 
they were so well organised, so far ahead of foreign work- 
men, that little could be done until these were more on a 
level " with the skilled workers of England. 1 The Congress 
of 1886 nevertheless instructed the Parliamentary Committee 
to summon an International Conference in London in the 
following year. Instead of complying with this instruction, 
the Committee published, in May 1887, a lengthy pamphlet 
explaining that, owing to the indisposition of foreign work- 
men to make any pecuniary sacrifices for their Trade Unions, 
and the consequent lack of any stable working-class organisa- 
tions, they had decided to refer the whole question again 
to the forthcoming Trade Union Congress. When the Con- 
gress met at Swansea in September 1887, it soon became 
evident that the Parliamentary Committee, on this question 
as on others, was quite out of touch with its constituents. 
In spite of the influence of the Front Bench, a resolution in 
favour of an International Congress was adopted ; and the 
Committee succeeded only in inducing Congress to impose 
restrictions which were intended to exclude the delegates 
of the German Social-Democratic party. The International 
Congress was held in London in November 1888. Not- 
withstanding every precaution, a majority of the repre- 
sentatives proved to be of Socialist views, Mrs. Besant, 
John Burns, Tom Mann, and Keir Hardie appearing among 

1 Report to Congress of 1884. This is another instance of the aban- 
donment of the more generous views of Applegarth and Odger. 

Lack of Leadership 397 

the British delegates. The stiff and unsympathetic atti- 
tude of the Parliamentary Committee led to heated and, 
at times, unseemly controversies ; and the resolutions 
passed were treated by the Committee as of no account 

The net result of these proceedings was the loss by the 
Parliamentary Committee of all intellectual leadership of 
the Trade Union world. They failed either to resist the 
new ideas or to guide them into practicable channels. The 
official Trade Union programme from 1885 to 1889 became 
steadily more colourless, in striking contrast with the rapid 
march of politics in the country, which was sweeping the 
Liberal party forward year by year until in 1891 it adopted 
the so-called " Newcastle Programme." This programme 
formulated, though very inadequately, the national side of 
that semi-collectivist policy which under the name of Pro- 
gressivism had superseded Liberalism in the London County 
Council. All that the Parliamentary Committee did was to 
abandon, one by one, the proposals for the democratisation 
of the civil and judicial administration which the Front 
Bench had so much at heart, without replacing them by 
the more robust resolutions which the Congress in these 
years was passing. The Land Question, on which a vigorous 
advocacy of the creation of small freeholders had been 
formerly maintained, dwindled to a meaningless demand for 
undefined reform of the land laws, and finally disappeared 
altogether on the adoption by the Congress of the principle 
of nationalisation. The maintenance of the Nine Hours 
Day, and the further reduction of the hours of labour by 
means of voluntary combination (a frequent item in the 
official agenda from 1875 to 1879) gradually dropped out 
altogether as the new demand for legal regulation gathered 
strength. In short, the Parliamentary Committee had per- 
force to give up those items in their programme which were 
contrary to the new ideas of Congress, whilst they silently 
abstained from incorporating the new resolutions with which 
they were personally not in agreement. 

39$ The Old Unionism and the New 

It would, however, be unfair to assume that the stock 
of official Trade Unionism was, during these years, absolutely 
barren of new developments. To Mr. C. J. Drummond, 1 
then Secretary to the London Society of Compositors, and 
a friend of the Parliamentary Committee, belongs the credit 
of having taken the first step towards the enforcement, 
through the Government, of a standard minimum wage. 
On the revision of the Government printing contract in 
1884, Mr. Drummond secured the support of the Parlia- 
mentary Committee in an attempt to induce the Stationery 
Office to adopt, as the basis for the contract, the Trade 
Union rates of the London compositors. This attempt 
was, in the main, successful ; but the new contract was 
nevertheless given to a " closed " house, in which no member 
of the Union could work. The compositors did not let the 
matter rest. When the President of the Local Government 
Board (Joseph Chamberlain) issued a circular in January 
1886, as to the effects of the depression in trade, Mr. Drum- 
mond replied by explicitly demanding the Government's 
recognition of the Standard Wage in all their dealings. The 
idea spread with great rapidity. A general demand was 
started that public authorities should present a good example 
as employers of labour by themselves paying Trade Union 
rates, and insisting on their contractors doing the same. 
Candidates for Parliament at the General Election of 1886 
found themselves, at the instance of the London Society of 
Compositors, 2 for the first time " heckled " as to their will- 
ingness to insist on " Fair Wages " ; and it began slowly 
to dawn upon election agents that it might be prejudicial 
for their election literature to bear the imprint of " rat 
houses/' In October 1886 the action of the London School 
Board in giving its printing contract to an " unfair " house 
was bitterly resented by the London compositors, who in- 

1 Mr. Drummond, who resigned his secretaryship in 1892, was in the I 
following year appointed to the staff of the Labour Department of the I 
Board of Trade, from which he retired in 1918. 

2 its Circular of June 1886. 

The " Fair Wage Clause " 399 

duced the London Trades Council to go on a vain deputation 
of protest. When, in November 1888, the London School 
Board election came round, A. G. Cook, a member of the 
London Society of Compositors, secured election for Fins- 
bury, avowedly as a champion of Trade Union wages ; and 
two members of the Fabian Society, Mrs. Annie Besant and 
the Rev. Stewart Headlam, won seats as Socialists. By 
their eloquence and tactical skill these members induced 
the Board, early in 1889, to declare that it would henceforth 
insist on the payment of " Fair Wages " by all its contractors, 
a policy in which the Board was promptly followed by the 
newly established London County Council. 1 This new de- 
parture by the leading public bodies in the Metropolis did 
much to bring about a common understanding between the 
official Trade Unionists and the new movement. It is 
needless to describe in this place how, since that date, the 
principle of " Fair Wages " has developed. By 1894 a 
hundred and fifty local authorities had adopted some kind 
of " Fair Wages " resolution. In 1890, and more explicitly 
still in 1893, successive Governments found it necessary to 
repudiate the old principle of buying in the cheapest market, 
in favour of the now widespread feeling that public author- 
ities as large employers of labour, instead of ignoring the 
condition of their employees, should use their influence to 
maintain the Standard Rate of Wages and Standard Hours 
of Labour recognised and in practice obtained by the Trade 
Unions concerned. 

Though the Front Bench as a whole maintained during 
these years its policy of contemptuous inactivity, there were, 
as we have seen, some signs of the permeation of the new 
ideas. It was under these circumstances a grave misfortune 

1 Some isolated protests against the employment of non-Unionists are 
of earlier date. Thus, the minutes of the Birmingham Trades Council 
show that, on July 3, 1880, at the instance of a painters' delegate, it passed 
a resolution protesting against the employment of " non-Union and 
incompetent men " by the local hospital. And in the same month the 
Wolverhampton Trades Council had successfully protested against the 
employment of non-Unionist printers upon a new Liberal newspaper about 
to be established. 

4OO The Old Unionism and the New 

that the inevitable criticism on the Parliamentary Committee 
began by a scurrilous attack upon the personal character 
and conduct of its leaders. 1 During the years 1887-89 the 
conscientious adhesion to the Liberal party of most of the 
Parliamentary Committee was made the occasion for gross 
charges of personal corruption. The General Secretaries 
of the great Unions, men who had for a lifetime diligently 
served their constituents, found their influence undermined, 
their character attacked, and themselves denounced, by the 
circulation all over the country of insidious accusations of 
treachery to the working classes. These charges found a 
too ready acceptance among, and were repeated by, those 
young and impatient recruits of the new movement who 
knew nothing of the history and services of the men they 
were attacking. In the year 1889 the friction reached its 
climax. During the summer the attacks upon the personal 
character of the Front Bench were redoubled. As the date 
of the Trade Union Congress approached, it became known 
that a determined attempt would be made by the Socialist 
delegates to oust the Parliamentary Committee from office. 
The Congress met at Dundee, and plunged straight into an 
angry conflict in which the Socialists were completely 
routed. The regular attenders of the Congress had, as we 
have seen, been gradually absorbing many of the new ideas, 
and were not altogether satisfied with the way their resolu- 
tions had been ignored by the Parliamentary Committee. 
But all discontent or criticism was swept away by the anger 
which the character of the attack had excited. A great 
majority of the delegates came expressly pledged to support 
Broadhurst and his colleagues, and when the division was 
taken only n out of a meeting of 188 delegates were found 

1 The chief medium for the attack was the Labour Elector, a penny 
weekly journal published, from September 1888 to April 1890, by Mr. 
H. H. Champion, an ex-officer of the Royal Artillery, who (prosecuted in 
1886, as we have seen, with H. M. Hyndman, J. Burns, and Williams, for 
sedition) had at one time been a leading member of the Social Democratic 
Federation, from which he was excluded on a difference of policy. He 
afterwards emigrated to Melbourne, where he still (1920) resides. 

Broadhurst's Victory 401 

to vote against him. The Cotton Operatives who had at 
all times supported factory legislation, the Miners who were 
demanding an Eight Hours Bill, the Londoners who came 
from the centre of the Socialist agitation all rallied to 
defend the Parliamentary Committee. The little knot of 
assailants were thoroughly discredited ; and the triumph of 
the " old gang " was complete. 1 

The victory of the Parliamentary Committee was hailed 
with satisfaction by all who were alarmed at the progress 
of the new ideas. For a moment it looked as if the organised 
Trade Unions of skilled workers had definitely separated 
themselves from the new labour movement growing up 
around them. Such a separation would, in our opinion, 
have been an almost irreparable disaster. The Trade 
Union Congress could claim to represent less than 10 per 
cent of the wage-earners of the country. Many of the 
old societies were already shrinking up into insignificant 
minorities of superior workmen, intent mainly on securing 
their sick and superannuation benefits. Any definite 
exclusion of wider ideals might easily have reduced the 
whole Trade Union organisation to nothing more than a 
somewhat stagnant department of the Friendly Society 
movement. This danger was averted by a series of dramatic 
events which brought the new movement once more inside 
the Trade Union ranks. At the moment that Henry Broad- 
hurst was triumphing over his enemies at Dundee, the London 
dock-labourers were marching to that brilliant victory over 
their employers which changed the whole face of the Trade 
Union world. 

The great dock strike of 1889 was the culmination of 
an attempt to organise the unskilled workers which had 
begun in London two or three years before. The priva- 
tions suffered by the unemployed labourers during the 
years of depression of trade, and the new spirit of hope- 
fulness due to the Socialist propaganda, had led to efforts 

1 Henry Broadhurst : the Story of his Life, by himself, 1901, pp. 218-24 ; 
History of the British Trades Union Congress, by W. J. Davis, vol. i., 1910. 

4O2 The Old Unionism and the New 

being made to bring the vast hordes of unskilled workmen 
in the Metropolis into some kind of organisation. At first 
this movement made very little progress. In July 1888, 
however, the harsh treatment suffered by the women 
employed in making lucifer matches roused the burning 
indignation of Mrs. Besant, then editing The Link, a little 
weekly newspaper which had arisen out of the struggle for 
Trafalgar Square. A fiery leading article had the unexpected 
result of causing the match-girls to revolt ; and 672 of them 
came out on strike. Without funds, without organisation, 
the struggle seemed hopeless. But by the indefatigable 
energy of Mrs. Besant and Herbert Burrows public opinion 
was aroued in a manner never before witnessed ; 400 
was subscribed by hundreds of sympathisers in all classes ; 
and after a fortnight's obstinacy the employers were com- 
pelled, by sheer pressure of public feeling, to make some 
concessions to their workers. 

The match-girls' victory turned a new leaf in Trade 
Union annals. Hitherto success had been in almost exact 
proportion to the workers' strength. It was a new experi-\ 
ence for the weak to succeed because of their very weakness, I 
by means of the intervention of_the public. The lesson * 
was not lost on other classes of workers. The London gas- 
stokers were being organised by Burns, Mann, and Tillett, 
aided by William Thorne, himself a gas-worker and a man 
of sterling integrity and capacity. The Gas-workers and 
General Labourers' Union, established in May 1889, quickly 
enrolled many thousands of members, who in the first days 
of August simultaneously demanded a reduction of their 
hours of labour from twelve to eight per day. After an 
interval of acute suspense, during which the directors of 
the three great London gas companies measured their forces, 
peaceful counsels prevailed, and the Eight Hours Day, to 
the general surprise of the men no less than that of the 
public, was conceded without a struggle, and was even 
accompanied by a slight increase of the week's wages. 1 

1 The men employed by two of the gas companies in London, and 

The London Dockers 403 

The success of such unorganised and unskilled workers 
as the Match-makers and the Gas-stokers led to renewed 
efforts to bring the great army of Dock-labourers into the 
ranks of Trade Unionism. For two years past the promi- 
nent London Socialists had journeyed to the dock gates in 
the early hours of the morning to preach organised revolt 
to the crowds of casuals struggling for work. Meanwhile 
Benjamin Tillett, then working as a labourer in the tea 
warehouses, was spending his strength in the apparently 
hopeless task of constituting the Tea-workers and General 
Labourers'^ Union. The membership of this society fluc- 
tuated between 300 and 2500 members ; it had practically 
no funoTs ; and its very existence seemed precarious. 
Suddenly the organisation received a new impulse. An 
insignificant dispute on the I2th of August 1889 as to the 
amount of " plus " (or bonus earned over and above the five- 
pence per hour) on a certain cargo, brought on an impulsive 
strike of the labourers at the South- West India Dock. The 
men demanded sixpence an hour, the abolition of sub- 
contract and piecework, extra pay for overtime, and a 
minimum engagement of four hours. Tillett called to his 
aid his friends Tom Mann and John Burns, and appealed to 
the whole body of dock labourers to take up the fight. 
The strike spread rapidly to all the docks north of the 
Thames. Within three days ten thousand labourers had, 
with one accord, left the precarious and ill-paid work to 
get which they had, morning after morning, fought at the 
dock gates. The two powerful Unions of Stevedores (the 
better-paid, trained workmen who load ships for export) 
cast in their lot with the dockers, and in the course of the 

most of those engaged by provincial municipalities, have retained this 
boon. But in December 1889 the South Metropolitan Gas Company 
insisted, after a serious strike, on a return to the twelve hours' shift. A 
scheme of profit-sharing was used to break up their men's Union and induce 
them to accept individual engagements inconsistent with Collective 
Bargaining. This example (which is not unique) confirmed the Trade 
Unions in their objection to schemes of " Profit-sharing " or " Co-partner- 

404 The Old Unionism and the New 

next week practically all the river-side labour had joined 
the strike. Under the magnetic influence of John Burns, 
who suddenly became famous as a labour leader on both 
sides of the globe, the traffic of the world's greatest port 
was, for over four weeks, completely paralysed. An electric 
spark of sympathy with the poor dockers fired the enthusiasm 
\l 1 of all classes of the community. Public disapproval hindered 
^ the dock companies from obtaining, even for their unskilled 
labour, sufficient blacklegs to take the strikers' place. A 
public subscription of 48,736 allowed Burns to organise an 
elaborate system of strike-pay, which not only maintained 
the honest docker, but also. bribed every East End loafer 
to withhold his labour ; and finally the concentrated pressure 
\ of editors, clergymen, shareholders, ship-owners, and mer- 
j chants enabled Cardinal Manning and Sydney (afterwards 
Lord) Buxton, as self-appointed mediators, to compel the 
Dock Directors to concede practically the whole of the men's 
demands, a delay of six weeks being granted to allow the 
new arrangements to be made. As in the case of the match- 
girls in the previous year, the most remarkable feature of 
the dockers' strike was the almost universal sympathy with 
the workers' demands. A practical manifestation of that 
sympathy was given by the workmen of Australia. The 
Australian newspapers published telegraphic accounts of 
the conflict, with descriptions of the dockers' wrongs, which 
produced an unparalleled and unexpected result. Public 
subscriptions in aid of the London dockers were opened in 
all the principal towns on the Australian continent ; and 
money poured in from all sides. Over 30,000 was remitted 
to London by telegraph an absolutely unique contribu- 
tion towards the strike subsidy which went far to win the 
victory ultimately achieved. 1 

1 This strike had the good fortune to find contemporary historians who 
were themselves concerned in all the phases of the struggle. The Story of 
the Dockers' Strike, by Mr. (afterwards Sir) Hubert Llewellyn Smith and 
Vaughan Nash (1890, 190 pp.), gives not only a detailed chronicle of the 
highly dramatic proceedings, but also a useful description of the organisa- 
tion of the London Docks. 

Organisation of the Labourers 405 

The immediate result of the dockers' success was the 
formation of a large number of Trade Unions among the 
unskilled labourers. Branches of the Dock, Wharf, and 
Riverside Labourers' Union (into which Tillett's little society 
was now transformed) were established at all the principal 
ports. A rival society of dockers, established at Liverpool, 
enrolled thousands of members at Glasgow and Belfast. 
The unskilled labourers in Newcastle joined the Tyneside 
and National Labour Union, which soon extended to all the 
neighbouring towns. The Gas-workers' Union enrolled tens 
of thousands of labourers of all kinds in the provincial cities. 
Organisation began again among the farm labourers. The 
National Union of Agricultural Labourers, which had sunk 
to a few thousand scattered members, suddenly rose in 1890 
to over 14,000. New societies arose, which took in general 
as well as farm labourers ; such as the Eastern Counties 
Labour Federation, which, by 1892, had 17,000 members ; 
and the smaller societies centring respectively on Norwich, 
Devizes, Reading, Hitchin, Ipswich, and Kingsland in Here- 
fordshire. 1 The General Railway Workers' Union, origin- 
ally established in 1889 as a rival to the Amalgamated Society 
of Railway Servants, took in great numbers of general 
labourers. The National Amalgamated Sailors and Fire- 
men's Union, 2 established in 1887, expanded during 1889 to 

1 This movement was much assisted by the " Red Van " campaigns 
of the English Land Restoration League, 1891-94, which coupled Land 
Nationalisation propaganda with the formation of local unions of the 
labourers in the Southern and Midland Counties of England. In the 
agricultural depression of 1894-95, when staffs were further reduced and 
wages again lowered, nearly all these new Unions sank to next to nothing, 
or entirely dissolved. Most information as to them is to be gained from 
The Church Reformer for 1891-95 ; History of the English Agricultural 
Labourer, by W. Hasbach, 1907 ; and Ernest Selley's Village Trade Unions 
of Two Centuries, 1919. 

2 Short-lived and turbulent combinations among seamen have existed 
at various periods for the past hundred years, notably between 1810 and 
1825, on the north-east coast, where many sailors' benefit clubs were also 
established. In 1851, again, a widespread national organisation of seamen 
is said to have existed, having twenty -five branches between Peterhead and 
London, and numbering 30,000 members. This appears to have been a loose 
federation of practically autonomous port Unions, which for some years 

406 The Old Unionism and the New 

a membership of 65,000. Within a year after the dockers' 
victory probably over 200,000 workers had been added to 
the Trade Union ranks, recruited from sections of the labour 
world formerly abandoned as incapable of organisation. 
All these societies were marked by low contributions and 
comprehensive membership. They were, at the outset, 
essentially, if not exclusively, devoted to trade protection, 
and were largely political in their aims. Their character- 
istic spirit is aptly expressed by the resolution of the Con- 
gress of the General Railway Workers' Union on the igth 
of November 1890 : " That the Union shall remain a fighting 
one, and shall not be encumbered with any sick or accident 
fund.'* " We have at present," reports the General Secre- 
tary of the National Union of Gas-workers and General 
Labourers in November 1889, " one of the strongest labour 
Unions in England. It is true we have only one benefit 
attached, and that is strike pay. I do not believe in having 
sick pay, out-of-work pay, and a number of other pays. 
. . . The whole aim and intention of this Union is to reduce 
the hours of labour and reduce Sunday work." 1 

A wave of Trade Unionism, comparable in extent with 
those of 1833-34 an d I ^73-74> was now spreading into every 
corner of British industry. Already in 1888 the revival of 
trade has led to a marked increase in Trade Union member- 
ship. This normal growth now received a great impulse 
from the sensational events of the Dock strike. Even the 

kept up a vigorous agitation against obnoxious clauses in the Merchant 
Shipping Acts of 1851-54, and fought the sailors' grievances in the law- 
courts. In 1879 the existing North of England Sailors and Sea-going 
Firemen's Friendly Association was established, but failed to maintain 
itself outside Sunderland. In 1887 its most vigorous member, J. Havelock 
Wilson, convinced that nothing but a national organisation would be 
effective, started the National Amalgamated Sailors and Firemen's Union, 
which his able and pertinacious " lobbying " made, for some years, an 
effective Parliamentary force. 

1 Address to members in First Half -Yearly Report (London, 1889). 
The spirit of the uprising is well given in The New Trade Unionism, by 
Tom Mann and Ben Tillett, 1890; on which George Shipton was moved 
to write A Reply to Messrs. Tom Mann and Ben Tillett's Pamphlet 
entitled "The New Trade Unionism," 1890. 

Trade Union Growth 407 

oldest and most aristocratic Unions were affected by the 
revivalist fervour of the new leaders. The eleven principal 
societies in the shipbuilding and metal trades, which had 
been, since 1885, on the decline, increased from 115,000 at the 
end of 1888 to 130,000 in 1889, 145,000 in 1890, and 155,000 
in 1891. The ten largest Unions in the building trades, 
which between 1885 and 1888 had, in the aggregate, likewise 
declined in numbers, rose from 57,000 in 1888 to 63,000 in 
1889, 80,000 in 1890, and 94,000 in 1891. In certain indivi- 
dual societies the increase in membership during these years 
was unparalleled in their history. We have already referred 
to the rapid rise between 1888 and 1891 of that modern 
Colossus of Unions, the Miners' Federation. The Operative 
Society of Bricklayers, established in 1848, grew from a 
fairly stationary 7000 in 1888, to over 17,000 in 1891. The 
National Society of Boot and Shoe Operatives, established 
in 1874, went from 11,000 in 1888 to 30,000 in 1891. And, 
to turn to quite a different industry, the Amalgamated 
Society of Railway Servants, a trade friendly society of the 
old type, established in 1872, rose from 12,000 in 1888 to 
30,000 in 1891. Nor was the expansion confined to a mere 
increase in membership. New Trades Councils sprang up 
in all directions, whilst those already existing were rejoined 
by the trades which had left them. Federations of the 
Unions in kindred trades were set on foot, and competing 
societies in the same trade sank their rivalry in the formation 
of local joint committees. 

The victory of the London Dockers and the impetus 
it gave to Trade Unionism throughout the country at last 
opened the eyes of the Trade Union world to the signifi- 
cance of the new movement. It was no longer possible 
for the Parliamentary Committee to denounce the Socialists 
as a set of outside intriguers, when Burns and Mann, now 
become the representative working-men Socialists, stood at 
the head of a body of 200,000 hitherto unorganised workmen. 
The general secretaries of the older Unions, forming a com- 
pact official party behind the Front Bench, were veering 

408 The Old Unionism and the New 

around towards the advanced party. Their constituencies 
were becoming permeated with Socialism. In many instances 
the older members now supported the new faith. In other 
cases they found themselves submerged by the large acces- 
sions to their membership which, as we have already seen, 
resulted from the general expansion. The process of con- 
version was facilitated by the genuine admiration felt by 
the whole Trade Union world for the great organising 
power and generalship shown by the leaders of the new 
movement, and by the cessation of the personal abuse and 
recrimination which had hitherto marred the controversy. 
At the Dundee Congress of 1889, as we have seen, Henry 
Broadhurst, and his colleagues on the Parliamentary Com- 
mittee, had triumphed all along the line. Within a year the 
situation had entirely changed. The Stonemasons, Broad- 
hurst's own society, had decided, by a vote of the members, 
to support an Eight Hours Bill, and Broadhurst, under these 
circumstances, had perforce to refuse to act as their repre- 
sentative. The Executive Council of the Amalgamated 
Society of Engineers chose Burns and Mann as two out of 
their five delegates, impressing upon them all a recom- 
mendation to vote for the legal limitation of the hours of 
labour. Both the old-established societies jof Carpenters 
gave a similar mandate. The Miners' Federation this time 
led the attack on the old Front Bench, and -the resolution 
in favour of a general Eight Hours Bill was carried, after 
a heated debate, by 193 to 155. Broadhurst resigned his 
position as Secretary of the Parliamentary Committee on the 
ground of ill-health. George Shipton, the secretary of the 
London Trades Council, publicly declared his conversion to 
the legal regulation of the hours of labour. The Liverpool 
Congress was as decisive a victory for the Socialists as that 
of Dundee had been for the Parliamentary Committee. 
The delegates passed in all sixty resolutions. I " Out of 
these sixty resolutions," said John Burns, " forty-five were 
nothing more or less than direct appeals to the State and 
Municipalities of this country to do for the workman what 

H. M . Hyndman 409 

Trade Unionism^ JJHd ' and ' New,' has proved itself incap- 
able of doing. I Forty-five out of the sixty resolutions were 
asking for Stttte or Municipal interference on behalf of the 
weak against the strong. ' Old ' Trade Unionists, from 
Lancashire, Northumberland, and Birmingham, asked for 
as many of these resolutions as the delegates from London ; 
but it is a remarkable and significant fact that 19 out of 
20 delegates were in favour of the ' New ' Trades Union 
ideas of State interferences in all things except reduction 
of hours, and even on this we secured a majority that 
certainly entitles us Socialists to be jubilant at our success. "iJ 
But whilst the new faith was being adopted by the rank 
and file of Trade Unionists the character of the Socialist 
propaganda had been undergoing an equal transformation. 
The foremost representative of the Collectivist views had 
hitherto been the Social-Democratic Federation, of which 
Burns and Mann were active members. Under the domi- 
nant influence of Mr. H. M. Hyndman, this association 
adopted the economic basis and political organisation of 
State Socialism. Yet we find, along with these modprn 
views, a distinct recrudescence of the characteristic projects 
of the revolutionary Owenism of 1833-34. The student) of 
the volumes of Justice between 1884 and 1889 will be struck 
by the unconscious resemblance of many of the ideas and 
much of the phraseology of its contributors, to those of the 
Poor Man's Guardian and the Pioneer of 1834. We do not 
here allude to the revival, in 1885, of the old demand for 
an Eight Hours Bill, a measure regarded on both occasions 
as a " mere palliative." Nor need we refer to the constant 
assumption, made alike by Robert Owen and the Social- 
Democratic lecturers, that the acceptance of the Labour- 
value theory would enable the difficulty of the " unem- 
ployed " to be solved by organising the mutual exchange of 
their unmarketable products. But both in Justice and the 
Pioneer we see the same disbelief in separate action by 

1 Speech delivered by John Burns on the Liverpool Congress, September 

21, 1890 (1890, 32 pp.). 

4io The Old Unionism and the New 

particular Trade Unions, in contrast to an organisation 
including " every trade, skilled and unskilled, of every 
nationality under the sun/' * " The real emancipation of 
labour," says the official manifesto of the Social-Democratic 
Federation to the Trade Unions of Great Britain in Sep- 
tember 1884, " can only be effected by the solemn banding 
together of millions of human beings in a federation as wide 
as the civilised world." 2 " The day has gone by," we read 
in 1887, "for the efforts of isolated trades. . . . Nothing is 
to be gained for the workers as a class without the complete 
organisation of labourers of all grades, skilled and unskilled. 
. . . We appeal therefore earnestly to the skilled artisans 
of all trades, Unionists and non-Unionists alike, to make 
common cause with their unskilled brethren, and with us 
Social-Democrats, so that the workers may themselves take 
hold of the means of production, and organise a Co-operative 
Commonwealth for themselves and their children." 3 And 
if the " scientific Socialists " of 1885 were logically pledged 
to the administration of industry by the officials of the com- 
munity at large, none the less do we see constantly cropping 
up, especially among the working-class members, Owen's 
diametrically opposite proposal that the workers must 
" own their own factories and decide by vote who their 
managers and foremen shall be." 4 Above all we see the 
same faith in the near and inevitable advent of a sudden 
revolution, when " it will only need a compact minority 
to take advantage of some opportune accident that will 
surely come, to overthrow the present system, and once and 
for all lift the toilers from the present social degradation." 5 
" Noble Robert Owen," says Mr. Hyndman in 1885," seventy 
years ago perceived ' the utter impossibility of succeeding 

1 Justice, November 7, 1885. 

2 Printed in Justice, September 6, 1884. 

8 " The Decay of Trade Unions," by H. M. Hyndman, Justice, June 18, 

* " The Trade Union Congress," by John Burns, Justice, September 12, 

6 Justice, July n, 1885. 


in permanently improving the condition of our population 
by any half -measures/ We see the same truth if possible 
yet more clearly now. But the revolution which in his day 
was unprepared is now ripe and ready. . . . Nothing short 
of a revolution which shall place the producers of wealth 
in control of their own country can possibly change matters 
for the better. . . . Will it be peaceful ? We hope it may. 
That does not depend upon us. But, peaceful or violent, 
the great social revolution of the nineteenth century is at 
hand, and if fighting should be necessary the workers may 
at least remember the profound historical truth that ' Force 
is the midwife of progress delivering the old society pregnant 
with the new/ and reflect that they are striving for the 
final overthrow of a tyranny more degrading than the worst 
chattel slavery of ancient times/' 1 " Let our mission be," 
he writes in 1887, " to help to band together the workers of 
the world for the great class struggle against their exploiters. 
No better date could be chosen for the establishment of such 
international action on a sound basis than the year 1889, 
which the classes look forward to with trembling and the 
masses with hope. I advocate no hasty outbreak, no 
premature and violent attempt on the part of the people 
to realise the full Social-Democratic programme. But I do 
say that from this time .onwards we, as the Social-Demo- 
cratic Labour Party of Great Britain, should make every 
effort to bear our part in the celebration by the international 
proletariat of the First Centenary of the great French 
Revolution, and thus to prepare for a complete International 
Social Revolution before the end of the century." 2 

The year 1889, instead of ushering in a " complete 
International Social Revolution " by a universal compact 
of the workers, turned the current of Socialist propaganda 
from revolutionary to constitutional channels. The advent 

1 Justice, July 18, 1885. The identity of purpose and methods between 
the two movements is indeed elsewhere directly asserted ; see " Socialism 
in '34," ibid., April 19, 1884, and the extracts from the Owenite journals 
in the issue for July 25, 1885. 

8 Ibid., August 6, 1887. 

412 The Old Unionism and the New 

of political Democracy had put out of date the project of 
" a combined assault by workers of every trade and grade 
against the murderous monopoly of the minority." 1 For 
a moment, at the very crisis of the dockers' stru'ggle, the 
idea of a " General Strike " flickers up, only to be quickly 
abandoned as impracticable. When the problems of admin- 
istration had actually to be faced by the new leaders the 
specially Owenite characteristics of the Socialist propaganda 
were quietly dropped. In January 1889 John Burns was 
elected a member of the London County Council, and 
quickly found himself organising the beginnings of a bureau- 
cratic municipal Collectivism, as far removed from Owen's 
" national companies " as from the conceptions of the 
Manchester School. Tom Mann, as president of the Dockers' 
Union, could not help discovering how impracticable it was 
to set to work his unemployed members, accustomed only 
to general labour, in the production for mutual exchange 
of the bread and clothing of which they were in need. And 
whether working in municipal committees, or at the head 
office of a great Union, both Burns and Mann had perforce 
to realise the impossibility of bringing about any sudden 
or simultaneous change in the jsocial or industrial organisa- 
tion of the whole community/or even of one town or trade. 
Under these circumstances it is perhaps not surprising 
that Burns and Mann left the Social Democratic Federa- 
tion, and found themselves hotly denounced by their old 
comrades A With the defection of the New Unionists, 
revolutionary Socialism ceased to grow ; and the rival pro- 
paganda of constitutional action became the characteristic 
feature of the British Socialist Movement. Far from abusing 
or deprecating Trade Unionism or Co-operation, the con- 
stitutional Collectivists urged it as a primary duty upon 

1 Justice, July 25, 1885. 

2 From 1889 onwards the columns of Justice abound in abuse and 
denunciation of the leaders of the New Unionism. We may cite, not so 
much because it summarises this denunciation and abuse, but because of 
the details of the movement that it incidentally gives, The Rise and Pro- 
gress of a Right Honourable, by Joseph Burgess (1911). 

Municipal Socialism 413 

every working-class Socialist to become a member of his 
Trade Union, to belong to the local Co-operative Society, 
and generally to take as active a part as possible in all 
organisations. Instead of denouncing partial reforms as 
mischievous attempts to defeat " the Social Revolution," 
the New Unionist leaders appealed to their followers to put 
their own representatives on Town Councils, and generally 
to use their electoral influence to bring about, in a regular 
and constitutional manner, the particular changes they had 
at heart. Instead of circulating calumnies against the per- 
sonal character of Trade Union leaders, they flooded the 
Trade Union world with Socialist literature, dealing not so 
much in rhetorical appeals or Utopian aspirations as in 
economic expositions of the actual grievances of industrial 
life. The vague resolutions of the Trades Union Congresses 
were worked out in practical detail, or even embodied in 
draft bills which the local member of Parliament might be 
invited to introduce, or driven to support. 

The new policy, adopted as it was by such prominent 
Socialists as Burns, Mann, and Tillett, and Mrs. Besant, 
appeared, from 1889 onward, increasingly justified by its 
success. The Collectivist victories on the London School 
Board and County Council, the steady growth of municipal 
activity, and the increasing influence exercised by working- 
men members of representative bodies, went far to persuade 
both Socialists and Trade Unionists that the only practicable 
means of securing for the community the ownership and 
control of the means of production lay in a wide extension 
of that national and municipal organisation of public services 
towards which Parliament and the Town Councils had 
already taken the first steps. In those industries in which 
neither national nor municipal administration was yet pos- 
sible, the Socialists demanded such a regulation of the con- 
ditions of employment as would ensure to every worker a 
minimum Standard of Life. The extension of the Factory 
Acts and the more thorough administration of the Sanitary 
Law accordingly received a new impulse. In another direc- 

414 The Old Unionism and the New 

tion the drastic taxation of Rent and Interest, pressed for 
by Land Nationalisers and Socialists alike, was justified 
as leading eventually to the collective absorption of all 
unearned incomes. In short, from 1889 onward, the chief 
efforts of the British Socialist Movement have been directed, 
not to bringing about any sudden, complete, or simultaneous 
revolution, but to impregnating all the existing forces of 
society with Collectivist ideals and Collectivist principles. 1 
v With the advent of the " New Unionism " of 1889-90 
we close this chapter. We shall see, in subsequent chapters 
to what extent, and in what way, the Trade Union Move- 
ment was permanently affected by the new movement. 
But we append at this point a brief account of what seem 
to us, first, the ephemeral features and, secondly, the more 
durable results of an impulse which did not wholly spend 
its force for a whole decade. 

If we were to believe some of the more enthusiastic 
apostles of the " New Unionism/' we should imagine that 
the aggressive trade society of unskilled labourers, un- 
encumbered with friendly benefits, was an unprecedented 

1 In this development some share is to be attributed to the work of 
the Fabian Society, which, established in 1883, began in 1887 to exercise 
a growing influence on working-class opinion. The publication, in 1889, 
of Fabian Essays in Socialism, the circulation between 1887 and 1893 of 
three-quarters of a million copies of its series of " Fabian tracts," and 
the delivery of several thousand lectures a year in London and other 
industrial centres, contributed largely to substitute a practical and 
constitutional policy of Collectivist reform for the earlier revolutionary 
propaganda. Tom Mann, Ben Tillett, and other Trade Union leaders 
were, from 1889 onwards, among the members of the parent Fabian 
Society, whilst the ninety independent local Fabian Societies in the pro- 
vincial centres usually included many of the delegates to the local Trades 
Councils. Some account of the Society and its work will be found in 
Zum socialen Frieden, by Dr. von Schulze Gaevernitz (Leipzig, 1891, 
2 vols.) ; in Englische Socialreformer, by Dr. M. Grunwald (Leipzig, 1897) ; 
in La Societe Fabienne, by Edouard Pfeiffer (Paris, 1911); in Geschichte 
des Socialismus in England, by M. Beer (Stuttgart, 1913), republished in 
different English form as History of British Socialism (vol. i., 1918 ; vol. ii., 
1920) ; in Socialism, a Critical Analysis, by O. D. Skelton, 1911 ; and in 
Political Thought in England from Herbert Spencer to the Present Day, by 
Ernest Barker, 1915. A superficial survey of the development of opinion 
is given in Socialism in England, by Sidney Webb (ist edition, 1889; 2nd 
edition, 1893). See History of the Fabian Society, by Edward R. Pease (1915). 

The Alternation of Type 415 

departure in the history of labour organisation. Those who 
have followed our history thus far will know better than to 
entertain such an illusion, itself an old characteristic of 
Trade Unionist revivals. The purely trade society is as old 
as Trade Unionism itself. Throughout the whole history of 
the movement we find two types of societies co-existing. At 
special crises in the annals of Trade Unionism we see one 
or other of these types taking the lead, and becoming the 
" New Unionism " of that particular period. Both trade 
society and friendly society with trade objects were common \ 
in the eighteenth century. Legal persecution of trade com- \ 
bination brought to the front the Union cloaked in the guise 
of a benefit club ; and it was mainly for organisations of this 
type that Place and Hume won the emancipation of 1824- 
1825. la I 833~34 we -find Place deploring as a mischievous 
innovation the growth of the new " Trades Unions " without 
friendly benefits. Twenty years later we see the leadership 
reverting to the " new model " of an elaborate trade friendly 
society which, for a whole generation, was vehemently 
denounced by employers as a fraud on the provident work- 
man. The " New Unionism " of 1852, described by so 
friendly a critic as Professor Beesly as a novel departure, 
became, in its turn, the " Old Unionism " of 1889, when the 
more progressive spirits again plumed themselves on elimi- 
nating from their brand-new organisations the enervating 
influences of friendly benefits. 

A closer examination of the facts shows that this almost 
rhythmical alternation of type has been only apparent. 
The impartial student will notice that whilst the purely 
trade society has been persistently adhered to by certain 
important industries, such as the Coal-miners and the 
Cotton-spinners, other trades, like the Engineers and the 
Iron-founders, have remained equally constant to the 
trade friendly society ; whilst others, again, such as the 
Compositors and the Carpenters, have passed backwards 
and forwards from one model to the other. But besides 
this adaptation of type to the circumstances of particular 

416 The Old Unionism and the New 

industries, we see also a preference for the purely trade 
society on no higher ground than its cheapness. The high 
contributions and levies paid by the Cotton-spinners to their 
essentially trade society are as far beyond the means of 
the Agricultural Labourer or the Docker as the weekly pre- 
miums for superannuation, sick, and other benefits charged 
to the Amalgamated Engineer. When, as in 1833-34, 
1872, and 1889, a wave of enthusiasm sweeps the unskilled 
labourers into the Trade Union ranks, it is obviously necessary 
to form, at any rate in the first instance, organisations which 
make no greater tax upon their miserable earnings than a 
penny or twopence per week. The apparent rhythm of 
alternations between the two types of organisation is due, 
therefore, not to any general abandonment of one for the 
other, but to the accidental prominence, in certain crises of 
Trade Union history, of the Unions belonging to particular 
trades or classes of wage-earners. When, for instance, the 
cotton-spinners, the builders, and the unskilled labourers of 
1834 loomed large to Francis Place as a revolutionary force, 
the purely trade society appeared to him to be the source 
of all that was evil in Trade Unionism. When, in 1848-52, 
the iron trades were conspiring against piecework and over- 
time, it was especially the illicit combination of trade and 
friendly society which attracted the attention of the public, 
and called forth the denunciations of the capitalist class. 
And when in 1889 the dockers were stopping the trade of 
London, and the coal-miners and cotton-spinners were 
pressing upon both political parties their demands for 
legislative interference, we see George Howell voicing the 
opposition to exclusively trade societies as dangerously 
militant bodies. 1 

If the purely trade society is no new thing, still less is 
the extension of Trade Unionism to the unskilled labourer 
an unprecedented innovation. The enthusiasm which, in 
1872, enrolled a hundred thousand agricultural labourers 
in a few months, produced also numerous small societies 

1 Trade Unionism Old and New, 1891, passim. 

The New Methods 

of town labourers, some of which survived for years before 
absorption into larger organisations. The London and 
Counties Labour League, established as the Kent and Sussex 
Agricultural and General Labourers' Union in 1872, has 
maintained its existence down to the present day. The 
expansion of 1852 led to the formation in Glasgow of a 
Labourers' Society, wjach is reputed to have enrolled thou- 
sands of members.^ But it is with the enthusiasm of 1833-34-^5^ 
that the movement of 1889-90 has in this respect the 
greatest analogy. The almost instantaneous conversion to 
Trade Unionism after the dock strike of tens of thousands 
of the unskilled labourers of the towns recalls, indeed, 
nothing so much as the rapid enrolment of recruits among 
the poorest wage-earners by the emissaries of the Grand 
National Consolidated Trades Union. 

But however strongly the outward features of the wave 
of 1889-90 may remind the student of those of 1833-34, 
the characteristics peculiar to the new movement signifi- 
cantly measure the extent of the advance, both in social 
theory and social methods, made by the wage-earners in 
the two intervening generations. Time and experience 
alone will show how far the empirical Socialism of the 
Trade Unionist of 1889, with its eclectic opportunism, its 
preference for municipal collectivism, its cautious adapta- 
tion of existing social structure, and its modest aspirations 
to a gradually increasing participation of the workmen in 
control, may safely be pronounced superior in practicability 
to the revolutionary and universal Communism of Robert 
Owen. In truth, the radical distinction between 1833-34 
and 1889-90 is not a matter of the particular social theories 
which inspired the outbursts. To the great majority of 
the Trade Unionists the theories of the leaders at either date 
did but embody a vague aspiration after a more equit- 
able social order. The practical difference the difference 
reflected in the character and temper of the men attracted 
to the two movements, and of the attitude of the public 
towards them is the yeufference of method and immediate 
* P 

418 The Old Unionism and the New 

action. Robert Owen, as we have seen, despised and re- 
jected political action, and strove to form a new voluntary 
organisation which should supersede, almost instantaneously 
and in some unexplained way, the whole-industrial, political, 
and social administration of the country,/ In this disdain 
of all existing organisations, and fEe^uddenness of the 
complete " social revolution " which it contemplated, the 
Owenism of 1833-34 found, as we have seen, an echo in much 
of the Socialist propaganda of 1884-89. The Jeaders of the 
New Unionists, on the contrary, sought to bring into the 
ranks of existing organisations the Trade Union, the 
Municipality, or the State great masses of unorganised 
workers who had hitherto been either absolutely outside 
the pale, or inert elements within it. ^ They aimed, not at 
superseding existing social structures, but at capturing them 
all in the interests of the wage-earners. Above all, they 
sought to teach the great masses of undisciplined workers 
how to apply their newly acquired political power so as 
to obtain, in a perfectly constitutional manner, whatever 
changes in legislation or administration they desire^ ^ 

The difference in method between the " Newtfnionism " 
of 1833-34 an d that of 1889-90 may, we think, be ascribed 
in the main to the difference between the circumstances 
under which the movements arose. To Robert Owen, 
whose path was blocked on the political line by the dis- 
franchisement of five out of six of the adult male popula- 
tion/ open voting under intimidation, corrupt close corpora- 
tions in the towns and a Whig oligarchy at the centre, the 
idea of relying on the constitutional instrument of the polling- 
booth must have appeared no less chimerical than his own 
programme appears to-day. The New Unionists of 1889-90, 
on the other hand, found ready for their use an extensive 
and all-embracing Democratic social structure, which it was 
impossible to destroy, and would have been foolish to 
attempt to ignore./ The efforts of two generations of 
Radical Individualists and " Old Trade Unionists " had 
placed the legislative power and civil administration of the 

The " New Unionism " 419 

country in the hands of a hierarchy of popularly elected 
representative bodies. The great engine of taxation was, 
for instance, now under the control of the wage-earning 
voters instead of that of the land-owning class. The Home 
Secretary and the factory inspector, the relieving-officer 
and the borough surveyor, could be employed to carry out 
the behests of the workers instead of those of the capitalists/ 
And thus it came about that the methods advocated by the 
New Unionists of 1889-94 resemble, not those of the Owenites 
of 1833-34, but much more the practical arts of political 
warfare so successfully pursued by the Junta of 1867-75. 

We shall see the change which had come over the English 
working-class movement in the course of sixty years if we 
compare the leaders of the two movements which we have 
been contrasting. To Owen himself we may allow the 
privilege of his genius, which did not prevent him from 
being an extravagantly bad captain for a working-class 
movement. But in his leading disciples ignorance of in- 
dustrial conditions, contemptuous indifference to facts and 
figures, and incapacity to measure, even in the smallest 
actions, the relation between the means and the end, stand 
in as marked contrast to the sober judgment of men like 
John Burns as they did to the cautious shrewdness of Allan 
and Applegarth. It would indeed be easy to find many 
traits of personal likeness between Burns and Mann on the 
one hand, and Allan and Applegarth on the other. High 
personal character, scrupulous integrity, dignity or charm 
of manner, marked all four alike, and the resemblance of 
character is heightened by a noticeable resemblance in the 
nature of their activity. The day's work of Tom Mann at 
the head office of the Dockers' Union from 1889 to 1892, 
and that of John Burns in the London County Council and 
the lobby of the House of Commons from 1892 to 1906, 
were close reproductions of Allan's activity at the general 
office of his Engineers, and Applegarth's assiduous attend- 
ance to Parliamentary Committees and Royal Commissions. 
In short, the ways and means of the leaders of the " New 

42O The Old Unionism and the New 

Unionism " remind the student, not of the mystic rites and 
skeleton mummery of the Owenite movement, but rather 
of the restless energy and political ingenuity of the Junta 
or the Trades Union Congress Parliamentary Committee in 
those early days when the old Trade Unionists were fighting 
for legislative reforms with a faith which was as wise as it 
was fervent and sincere. 

Some of the secondary characteristics of the New Union- 
ism of 1889 promptly faded away. The revulsion of feeling 
against the combination of friendly benefits with Trade 
Union purposes quickly disappeared, though the difficulty 
of levying high contributions upon ill-paid workers prevented 
the complete adoption of the contrary policy. 1 The ex- 
pansion of trade which began in 1889 proved to be but of 
brief duration, and with the returning contraction of 1892 
many of the advantages gained by the wage-earners were 
lost. Under the influence of this check the unskilled 
labourers once more largely fell away from the Trade 
Union ranks. But just as 1873-74 left behind it a far more 
permanent structure than 1833-34, so 1889-90 added even 
more than 1873-74. The older Unions retained a large part, 
at any rate, of the two hundred thousand members added 
to their ranks between 1887 and 1891. But this numerical 
accession was of less importance than what may, without 
exaggeration, be termed the spiritual rebirth of organisa- 
tions which were showing signs of decrepitude. The selfish 
spirit of exclusiveness which often marked the relatively 
well-paid engineer, carpenter, or boilermaker of 1880-85, 
gave place to a more generous recognition of the essential 
solidarity of the wage-earning class.. For example, the whole 
constitution of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers was, 
in 1892, revised for the express purpose of opening the 

1 Thus the Dock, Wharf, and Riverside Labourers' Union soon gave 
Funeral Benefit usually the first to be added ; whilst many of the 
branches started their own sick funds. Some of the branches of the 
National Union of Gas-workers and General Labourers promptly added 
local benefit funds, and the addition of Accident Benefit by the whole 
society was presently adopted. 

The New Internationalism 421 

ranks of this most aristocratic of Unions to practically all 
the mechanics in the innumerable branches of the engineer- 
ing trade. Special facilities, moreover, were offered by this 
and the other great societies to old men and artisans earn- 
ing wages insufficient to pay for costly friendly benefits. 
Nor was this all. The plumber vied with the engineer, the 
carpenter with the shipwright, in helping to form Unions 
among the labourers who work with or under them. And 
the struggling Unions of women workers, which had origin- 
ally some difficulty in gaining admittance to Trades Councils 
and the Trade Union Congress, gratefully acknowledged a 
complete change in the attitude of their male fellow-workers. 
Not only was every assistance now given to the formation 
of special Unions among women workers, but women were, 
in some cases, even welcomed as members by Unions of 
skilled artisans. A similar widening of sympathies and 
strengthening of bonds of fellowship was shown in the very 
general establishment of local joint committees of rival 
societies in the same trade, as well as of larger federations. 
Robert Knight's failures to form a federal council represent- 
ing the different Unions concerned in shipbuilding were 
retrieved in 1891 by his successful establishment of the 
Federation of the Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades, which 
maintained a permanent existence. The increased sense of 
solidarity among all sections of wage-earners, moreover, led 
to a greatly increased cordiality in international relations. 
The Coal-miners, the Glass Bottle Makers, and the Textile 
Operatives established more or less formal federations with 
their fellow-workers on the Continent of Europe. At the 
frequent international Congresses of these trades, as well as 
at the Socialist Congress of the workers of all countries, 
the representatives of the British Trade Unions largely laid 
aside that insular conceit which led the Parliamentary Com- 
mittee of 1884 to declare that, owing to his superiority, the 
British Trade Unionist derived no benefit from international 
relations. All this indicates a widening of the mental 
horizon, a genuine elevation of the Trade Union Movement. 



WHEN we were engaged, between 1890 and 1894, in in- 
vestigating the history and organisation of all the several 
Unions, no complete statistics as to the extent of the 
membership were in existence. We accordingly sought to 
obtain, not only an analysis of the Trade Union world as it 
then was, but also a complete census of Trade Unionism 
from one end of the kingdom to the other. We retain this 
analysis practically as it stood in the first edition of the 
book in 1894, as a record of the position as it then was 
in subsequent chapters tracing the principal changes and 
developments of the last thirty years. 

To deal first with the aggregate membership, we were 
convinced in 1894 that, although a certain number of small 
local societies might have escaped our notice, we had 
included every Union then existing which had as many as 
1000 members, as well as many falling below that figure. 
From these researches we estimated that the total Trade 
Union membership in the United Kingdom at the end of 
1892 certainly exceeded 1,500,000 and probably did not 
reach 1,600,000. Our estimate was presently confirmed. 
Working upon the data thus supplied, the Labour Depart- 
ment of the Board of Trade extended its investigations, 
and now records a Trade Union membership for 1892 of 


Trade Union Statistics 423 

1,502,35s. 1 The Trade Unionists of 1892 numbered, there- 
fore, about 4 per cent of the Census population. 

But to gauge the strength of the Trade Union world of 
1892 we had to compare the number of Trade Unionists, not 
with the total population, but with that portion of it which 
might conceivably be included within its boundaries. Thus 
at the outset we had to ignore the propertied classes, the 
professions, the employers and the brain-workers of every 
kind, and confine our attention exclusively to the wage- 
earners engaged in manual work. Even of the working- 
class so defined we could exclude the . children and the 
youths under twenty-one,, who are not usually eligible for 
Trade Union membership. The women present a greater 

1 During the whole course of the nineteenth century the Government 
failed to ascertain, with any approach to accuracy, how numerous the 
Trade Unionists were. Until the appointment of Mr. John Burnett as 
Labour Correspondent of the Board of Trade in 1886, no attempt was 
made to collect, officially, any information about Trade Unionism. The 
five annual volumes published by Mr. Burnett between 1886 and 1891 
contained a fund of information on Trade Union statistics, and the returns 
became year by year more complete. The report for 1891 gave particulars 
of 431 Unions with 1,109,014 members, whilst that for 1892 covered a 
slightly larger total. But, restricted as he was to societies making returns 
in the precise form required, Mr. Burnett was unable to get at many 
existing Unions, whilst a considerable deduction had to be made from 
his total for members counted both in district organisations and in federa- 
tions. The Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies gave particulars, in his 
Report for 1892 (House of Commons Paper, 146 II. of March 28, 1893), 
of 1,063,000 members in 442 registered Trade Unions alone, after deduct- 
ing organisations which are not Trade Unions, and many duplicate entries. 
A large number of societies, such as the Northern Counties Amalgamated 
Weavers' Association, many of the Miners' Unions, the English and 
Scottish Typographical Associations, the United Kingdom Society of 
Coachmakers, the Flint Glass Makers, the Yorkshire Glass Bottle Makers, 
and others were then (as most of them still are) unregistered. Thus our 
own statistics revealed a 50 per cent greater Trade Union membership 
than the Government figures. It is difficult to state with exactness the 
number of separate organisations included, as this must depend upon the 
manner in which federal bodies are regarded. These exhibit almost 
infinite variations in character, from the mere " centre of communica- 
tion " maintained by the thirty-two completely independent local societies 
of Coopers, to the rigid unity of the forty district organisations which make 
up the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton-spinners. The 
number of independent societies may be reckoned at either 930 or at 
anything up to 1750, according to the view taken of federal Unions and 
federations. We put it approximately at noo. 

424 The Trade Union World 

difficulty to the statistician. The adult female wage-earners 
engaged in manual labour in 1891 were estimated to number 
between two and three millions, of which only about 100,000 
were even nominally within the Trade Union ranks. To 
what extent the men's Trade Unionism was weakened by 
its failure to enrol the women workers was a matter of 
dispute. From the industrial point of view the answer 
depends on complicated economic considerations, such as 
the extent to which women compete with men in particular 
industries, or women's trades with those in which men are 
employed. Owing to the exclusion of women from the 
Parliamentary franchise until 1918 their absence from the 
Trade Union world detracted little from its political force. 
We have dealt elsewhere 1 with the relation of women 
workers to the Trade Union organisation. Meanwhile we 
omit the women as well as the young persons under twenty- 
one from our estimate of the place occupied by Trade 
Unionism in working-class life. 

We know of no exact statistics as to the total numbers 
of the manual-working class. The figures collected by Leone 
Levi, and those of Sir Robert Giffen, together with the 
inferences to be drawn from the census and from Charles 
Booth's works, led us to the conclusion at best only 
hypothetical that of the nine millions of men over twenty- 
one years of age in 1891, about seven millions belonged to 
the manual-working class. Out of every hundred of the 
population of all ages we could roughly estimate that 
about eighteen are in this sense working men adults. 
Accepting for the moment this hypothetical estimate, we 
arrived at the conclusion that the Trade Unionists numbered 
at this date about 20 per cent of the adult male manual- 
working class, or, roughly, one man in five. 

But this revised percentage is itself misleading. If the 
million and a half Trade Unionists were evenly distributed 

1 See our Industrial Democracy and Problems of Modern Industry : 
also Men's and Women's Wages, should they be Equal ? by Mrs. Sidney 
Webb, 1919. 

The Massing of Trade Unionism 425 

among all occupations and through all districts, a move- 
ment which comprised only 20 per cent of working men 
would be of slight economic or industrial importance, and 
of no great weight in the political world. What gave the 
Trade Union Movement its significance even thirty years 
ago and transformed these million and a half units into an 
organised world of their own, was the massing of Trade 
Unionists in certain industries and districts hi such a way 
as to form a powerful majority of the working-class world. 
The Trade Unionists were aggregated in the thriving in- 
dustrial districts of the North of England. The seven 
counties of England north of the Humber and the Dee con- 
tained at least 726,000 members of trade societies, or almost 
half of the total for the United Kingdom. At a consider- 
able distance from these followed the industrial Midlands, 
where the seven counties of Leicester, Derby, Notts, Warwick, 
Gloucester, Northampton, and Stafford included a total 
Trade Union membership of at least 210,000, whilst South 
Wales, including Monmouthshire, counted another 89,000 
members of trade societies. The vast agglomeration of the 
London district, in which we must reckon Middlesex, the 
subsidiary boroughs of West Ham, Croydon, Richmond, and 
Kingston, as well as Bromley in Kent, yielded not more 
than 194,000 Trade Unionists. 

These four districts, comprising nearly 21,000,000 in- 
habitants, or rather more than two-thirds of the population 
of England and Wales, possessed in 1892 twelve-thirteenths 
of its Trade Unionists. The total Trade Union membership 
in the remainder of the country, with its 8,000,000 of popu- 
lation, did not exceed 105,000, largely labourers. The only 
county in England in which in 1892 we found no trace of 
Trade Union organisation was Rutland, which did not, at 
this date, contain a single branch of any Union whatsoever. 
But Huntingdonshire, Herefordshire, and Dorsetshire, con- 
taining together over 350,000 inhabitants, included, accord- 
ing to our estimate, only about 710 Trade Unionists between 
them. Scotland, with four millions of population, had 

p 2 

426 The Trade Union World 

147,000 Trade Unionists, nearly all aggregated in the narrow 
industrial belt between the Clyde and the Forth, two-thirds 
of the total, indeed, belonging to Glasgow and the neigh- 
bouring industrial centres. Ireland, with three-quarters of 
a million more population, counted but 40,000, nine- 
tenths of whom belonged to Dublin, Belfast, Cork, and 

Of particular counties, Northumberland and Durham at 
that date took the lead, closely followed by Lancashire. 
The table on following page supplies particulars of this date 
for the strongest Trade Union counties in England and 

This superficial investigation shows us at once that Trade 
Unionism coincided in 1892, as it does in 1920, in the main 
with density of population. The thinly peopled plains of 
Dorsetshire, the Highlands of Scotland, the West of Ireland, 
the Cumberland and Westmorland Hills, were practically 
devoid of Trade Unionism ; the valleys of the Tyne and 
Tees, Lancashire and London, and the busy industrial 
villages of the Midlands showed a comparatively high per- 
centage. But the correspondence of Trade Unionism with 
density of population is by no means exact. Oldham, for 
instance, with a population of 201,153, had 25,000 male 
Unionists, 1 or 12.43 per cent, whereas Birmingham (in- 
cluding the suburbs of Aston, Handsworth, and Solihull), 
with 621,253, had only 26,000, or 4.19 per cent, Newcastle 
(including Gateshead), with 328,066 inhabitants, had 26,500 
Trade Unionists, or 8.08 per cent, whilst Leeds (including 
Wortley, Hunslet, and Burley) had but 16,000 to a popula- 
tion of 415,243, or 3.85 per cent. And, most striking ex- 
ception of all, the crowded five and a half millions of the 
Metropolitan area had but 194,000 Trade Unionists, or only 
3.52 per cent of its population, whilst Lancashire, even 
including its northern moorlands and its wide agricultural 
districts, had 332,000 for less than four millions of people, 

1 There were, at this date, altogether about 45,000 Unionists in Old- 
ham, but of these some 20,000 were women. 

County Statistics 


or 8.63 per cent of its population. Reckoning that 18 out 
of every 100 of the population are adult male workmen, 
Trade Unionism thus counted among its adherents in some 
counties over 50 per cent of the total number of working 

Table showing, for certain counties in England, and for South Wales, the 
total population in i8gi, the ascertained number of Trade Unionists 
in 1892, and the percentage to population in each case. (In the first 
edition of this book the student will find a coloured map of England and 
Wales, showing, in five tints, the percentage of Trade Union membership 
to Census population in 1891 in the several counties, as estimated in 
this table.) 


Total Population 
in 1891. 

Number of Members 
of Trade Societies 
in 1892. 

of Trade 
Unionists to 

Northumberland .... 

I 024,369 



II. 21 

Yorkshire, E. Riding . . . 

070 286 


27 845 


South Wales and Mon mouth- 

I ^2">,3IS 



Nottinghamshire .... 
Yorkshire, W. Riding . . 
Cheshire . .... 


7O7 078 


6.! 4 






^Warwickshire .... 

801 738 



Northampton .... 

3O8 O72 



London District (including 
Middlesex, Croydon, West 
Ham, Richmond, Kingston, 
and Bromley) .... 
Yorkshire, N. Riding with 
York City 











No other county had 15,000 Trade Unionists, nor as much as 3 per 
cent of its population in trade societies. 

* Of these, some 80,000 were women. Fully four-fifths of all the 
organised women workers were, at this date, included in the Lancashire 
textile Trade Unions. 


The Trade Union Wond 

But this percentage itself fails to give an adequate idea 
of the extent to which Trade Unionism, even in 1892, 
dominated the industrial centres in which it was strongest. 
Within the concen